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Ciao, Principesse!

A Royal Celebration for Valentino in London

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Kristen McMenamy   
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Retrospectives inspire introspection. At the party hosted in London last night by the Italian ambassador to mark the opening of Valentino: Master of Couture at Somerset House, Giancarlo Giammetti was remembering a long-ago New York moment when Valentino and he were planning a celebratory party and Diana Vreeland asked who they wanted to meet. "Barbra Streisand," they chorused. Later that same night, in a downtown environment they'd managed to Valentino-ize on a strict budget, Streisand duly appeared.

She was just one of the princesses who's crossed paths with Valentino over the course of his half-century in fashion. Budgets are clearly a thing of the distant past now, but it still seemed so right that Val was first on the dance floor with princesses Beatrice and Eugenie after the ambassador's dinner. Right behind the royals were the ambassador and his wife, rocking gently to "Rapture." Then Val's longtime Mr. Fix-It, Carlos de Souza, (for whom the word "indefatigable" was surely invented) got Elizabeth von Guttman and Alexia Niedzielski up. It was like any late-night get-together in an old friend's living room—provided the old friend lives in agrand embassy on Grosvenor Square.

Parties have played a big part in building the Valentino legend. So has London. Ambassador Economides brought them together with a guest list that included Italian and British grandees, longtime pals Elizabeth Saltzman, Tim Jeffries, and Robin Hurlstone, and glam fans like Elizabeth Hurley, loving the fact that her tiger-print ensemble was in the exhibition, and Victoria Beckham, dodging questions about her spot of local house-hunting. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli were quivering with anticipation over the Stones concert that night. She's wearing a cape, he's wearing a leather jacket ("couture Perfecto," he called it). But after all the chitchat, the exchange that lingered the longest was the one with Valentino where, at the end of one more night honoring his singular contribution to fashion, he confessed that he sometimes wondered whether hedeserved it all. Honey, rest assured—if you don't, no one does!

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