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The Emperor Strikes Back

Valentino Returns to the New York Scene at the Museum at FIT's Annual Luncheon

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Valentino Garavani   
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Valentino Garavani may have stepped back from his label a few years ago, but he has never left the international stage. Yesterday, he was the man of the hour at the Museum at FIT's seventh annual benefit luncheon, where he received the Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion. Naturally, there was plenty of Valentino red at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater—and not only on the ladies. Cameron Silver, proprietor of L.A. vintage mecca Decades, sported a crimson button-down and matching pants underneath his late-sixties ivory Valentino men's haute couture jacket. "I found them a year ago and I knew at some point there'd be an occasion to wear them," he said of the almost matching jackets that he and his hat maker friend Rod Keenan wore. "And here it is." Luncheon vice chair Michelle Harper played dress-up herself in a violet silk taffeta frock with a bodice altered to her tiny frame. "I don't know the year," she said. "But I'm sure Mr. Valentino can tell me."

The designer received two standing ovations, at the beginning and end of his acceptance speech, and countless accolades. Couture Council founder and chairman Liz Peek called him "the undisputed maestro of fashion." Simon Doonan urged him to open an "ecole de fabulosity." Karl Lagerfeld sent a note to say, "Few know what Valentino knows about craftsmanship." But maybe the best praise came from Maria Grazia Chiuri, who inherited the Valentino label with her design partner, Pier Paolo Piccioli, nearly three years ago. "From Valentino we learned to love what we do," she told Style.com.

The afternoon raised $700,000 for FIT and, indeed, the way the love was flowing you figured plenty of Val's gals would take Peek up on a suggestion she offered from the podium: Pop open the DVD of The Last Emperor in the goody bag and "watch reruns in the privacy of your own homes for the rest of your life."

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