“Valentino is not a great technology person,” announced Giancarlo Giammetti, the iconic designer’s longtime partner, at this morning’s unveiling of the new Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum at the Museum of Modern Art. “We still need someone to turn on the television for him.” That kind of technological naïveté was hard to parse after being taken through Valentino’s astounding new virtual museum—a vast interactive video game-like space where users can comb through Valentino’s massive archive.
Fresh from the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC the night before, Anne Hathaway emceed the event on zero sleep, saying by way of explanation, “today’s going to get a little bit funky.” And indeed it did—she had some particularly pixilated words for Giammetti, introducing him as “the coolest, freshest dude” and revealing that Gwenyth Paltrow calls him Nonna (Italian for grandma).
Charmingly flustered from the Nonna comment, Giammetti took the stage to unveil the museum, its white walls glowing brightly on a giant projection screen. It’s an impressive design, to say the least. Valentino’s almost fifty-year career is on display in a 3-D digital building made up of sleek, sun-drenched galleries that add up to a whopping 100,000 square feet—the kind of scale that can only exist in the digital realm. Users can click around seven galleries of dresses organized by theme—from Animal Prints to his signature Red—and get close to more than 300 dresses, zooming in on a lavishly embroidered gray tulle and satin dress to see every stitch and seam in detail, or clicking on the short cream dress Jacqueline Kennedy wore to marry Aristotle Onassis (users can also peruse newspaper articles about the dress, Valentino’s sketch, and photos of the bride in the couture creation). Plus, there are 5,000 stirring photos and almost 200 videos (including a Masterclass with the designer himself)—altogether more than anyone could hope to view in just one visit. Thankfully, the app is free.
“If people thought when we stopped working we would be sitting on a park bench in Central Park feeding food to the fishes, they better change their minds,” said Giammetti of the monumental undertaking. He also said that the project took more than two years and “a lot of money” to complete, with all funding for the project (reported to be in the realm of several million dollars) coming from Valentino and Giammetti directly. But no price can be put on preserving 50 years of history in a “language that can be understood by future generations,” said Giammetti.
“Technology allows freedom to dream a bit more. We left fashion because dreams weren’t there anymore,” said Giammetti. “You can capture dreams at the virtual museum.”