Couture Special: Valentino's Pugs

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Valentino surrounded by models and pugs, by Jean Paul Goude
Valentino surrounded by models and pugs, by Jean Paul GoudePhotography by Jean Paul Goude

The day before the Paris Haute Couture show, we celebrate Valentino and his beloved pug companions

In anticipation of tomorrow's Valentino couture show at Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild in Paris, we've decided to shine a light on one of fashion's most avid pet owners, Valentino himself.

“I don’t care about the collection,” the revered designer passionately declared in the 2009 documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor. “My dogs are more important.” By dogs – as anyone who has seen the film will know – he is referring to his precious pug entourage, comprising Molly (the mother pug) and her offspring Margot, Maude, Maggie, Monty and Milton (now sadly deceased).

Pugs are toy dogs defined by their wrinkly, short-muzzled faces, compact square bodies and curled tails. Their coats are smooth and glossy and come in fawn, apricot fawn, silver fawn, and black. The Dutch East India Company were resonsible for importing the breed from its native China to Europe in the 16th century. It was an instant hit in the west, allegedly becoming became the official dog of the House of Orange in 1572 after a pug, named Pompey, saved the life of the Netherlandish prince by alerting him to a group of approaching assassins. A pug later travelled with William III and Mary II when they left the Netherlands to accept the throne of England in 1688. Loved for their big personalities in miniature bodies – they are typically strong willed, vivacious and teasing – pugs have remained popular pets to this day. Other notable pug owners include Queen Victoria, Andy Warhol, Sammy Davis Jr., Woody Harrelson and Tommy Hilfiger.

“When they snore, he loves it, and when they snort, he loves it"

As for Valentino, he has "always had pugs,” according to his friend Lynn Wyatt, and loves everything about them, right down to their idiosyncratic breathing habits. “When they snore, he loves it, and when they snort, he loves it." He even named a second line of clothing after his late pug Oliver – following in the footsteps of Christian Dior, who famously created the Bobby dress after his cherished canine companion.

As demonstrated in The Last Emperor (where many would argue the pugs stole the limelight), Valentino's furrowed friends live a life of luxury in his care. They have their own private butler and accompany Valentino when he travels, even boasting their own car to escort them to their owner's 14-seat Challenger jet. All except for Maude that is, who always travels with Valentino. Not only restricted to holiday time, the pugs also follow Valentino to work. The Last Emperor direcor Matt Tyrnauer once recalled, "There’s a scene in the movie where they’re making a $100,000 dress, and the pug walks out from underneath it!" In fact they're quite the fashion pros. Model Coco Rocha joked, “When we’re walking for our fittings, they walk alongside us. They’re showing us how it’s done." Here we present some of our favourite images of Valentino with his beloved pugs, alongside a brilliant clip from the film.