DESIGNERS : Long Live the King, Valentino

Last weekend, Rome temporarily had a king and a queen. His name was Valentino, hers was Elizabeth Taylor.

She arrived with 30 suitcases and her companion, Larry Fortensky, to help Valentino celebrate 30 years as a fashion designer with successive galas tied to the opening of two exhibitions.

The Friday night cocktail reception and supper buffet, hosted by Rome Mayor Franco Carraro, spotlighted "The Image," an exhibit of photographs and sketches of Valentino clothing by Lord Snowdown, Bruce Weber, Helmut Newton, Horst P. Horst, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Irving Penn and Antonio Lopez, among others. The event also featured showings of "Valentino," a film by Frederic Mitterand, nephew of the French president.

The Saturday night extravaganza at the 15th-Century Medici palace heralded a retrospective of Valentino designs.

Marella Agnelli, the woman Valentino has called "the most beautiful and elegant of them all," made an entrance in the grand hall to the strains of Sicilian music. As did Gina Lollobrigida, wearing a huge emerald and a pink satin dress that she proudly announced was her own design. Taylor wore a white gown with a chiffon skirt and an embroidered top designed just for the soiree.

Among the guests were perennial party girls Ivana Trump, Marisa Berenson, Diane von Furstenberg, Susan Gutfreund, Georgette Mosbacher, Nancy Kissinger, C.Z. Guest and Lynn Wyatt. The fashion front was represented by designers Hubert de Givenchy, Gianfranco Ferre and Emanuel Ungaro and mega-models Claudia Schiffer and Linda Evangelista (suddenly a redhead).

The exhibit, titled "Valentino: Thirty Years of Magic," which took two years to prepare, includes more than 300 Valentino ensembles selected from a field of 2,000. Each piece fits one of 10 themes, such as black and white, red and animal prints. Selections from the wardrobes of Valentino's six muses--the Duchess of Windsor, Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Brooke Shields and Marella Agnelli--were also on display.

Francesco Cossiga, president of Italy, was among the early visitors to the show. It will run in Rome until January, when it moves to Florence, then on to London, Spain, New York and Paris.

All proceeds will go to LIFE, an AIDS charity founded last year by Valentino founded and chaired by Elizabeth Taylor.

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