Caveat Emperor.


“I know what women want. The want to look beautiful.”

It’s been a busy few days here at the manse. Far too busy for my tastes. So I took a breather yesterday and went to sit, alone but for one other audience member, in a darkened theatre to watch a documentary about a dress maker and what would turn out to be his last couture collection.

Only it turned out to be a bit more than that. “Valentino: The Last Emperor” is a love story. Between a man and his work. Between the filmmakers and the glamorous universe of haute couture. Between a man and another man; neither of whom would have reached such dizzying heights of success without the other. Would that all relationships were built upon that kind of support and tolerance. It is a subject that not all will be able to accept much let appreciate, which is a shame. There is much to be learned here from the standpoint of the easy and elegant life.

I will warn you that the film draws you in. But your tolerance for talented, creative and pampered personalities should be high.

Here are a few things that I noted watching an extraordinary film about an extraordinary man.

Failure is not limiting. Valentino Garavani had one bankruptcy under his belt when he started again in Rome. Which leads to the second truth: you must be willing to risk a lot if you believe in your abilities.

If you believe that much in your abilities do not compromise. Accommodate, yes. Compromise, never.

But be willing to admit your limitations and surround yourself with those who are the best at those things that you cannot do well.

At every walk of life, details matter. Master the details and you will be a success.

Those who are at the pinnacle of success look the part. Mr. Garavani and Mr. Giammetti are very well dressed (if a little flamboyant with jewelry for my tastes.) Of course, this may be because both men are Italian and are, therefore, constitutionally mandated to be well turned out. On his way up, Mr. Garavani was a bit more fashionable in his dress, but these days he is impeccable in tweeds, worsteds, linen and even denim.

Having a car and driver is truly a better way to live. To say nothing of a private or chartered jet. And a staff to take care of it all for you.

Try not to be filmed eating or drinking. There is just no way to do it elegantly.

If you are incredibly successful, your eccentricities will be tolerated (and someone else will brush the dogs’ teeth.)

Speaking several languages is both useful and very chic. (Even the majordomo may be forgiven his short sleeved shirt and tie because of a facility with languages and a command of detail. Maybe.)

Style is eternal, and therefore not subject to the whims of fashion. Valentino’s best gowns are as beautiful and classic today as they were when they were created. He and Mr. Giammetti live very well and very elegantly. Perhaps the design mavens among you can identify the decade in which their digs were decorated, I could not. They are simply surrounded by beauty and luxury.

It is of vital importance that you have someone in your life who can tell you the 100% honest truth. Be willing to listen to that person and to forgive unconditionally when you don’t like what he or she may be saying. Provided that that person has your absolute best interests at heart.

There are many more things that the movie gave me to think about. I’m glad that I took the time to see the spectacle on the big screen and I may just buy the DVD.

Read the article that inspired the movie here And if you get a chance, see the movie. He may well have been the last connection to the days of la dolce vita and la belle figura. But beware, “Valentino: The Last Emperor” is captivating. Don’t plan on returning to work if you take in a matinee.

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