Before he met his partner Giancarlo Giammetti, Valentino says he was a freewheeling 26-year-old who just wanted to have a good time.

The Daily Telegraph asked the designer to describe a photo of himself working in 1958, when he'd just come back to Rome to set up his first atelier on the Via Condotti. He'd just spent several years in Paris, going to clubs with Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent after class at the Ecole de la Chambre de la Mode. Before heading back to Italy, he worked for designers Jean Desses and Guy Laroche.

"At this time, I just wanted to have fun, drive a sports car, sunbathe at the beach, wear leather pants, and dance," he said. "But not long after this photograph was taken, I went to have drinks with friends and met Giancarlo Giammetti. It was Giancarlo who started to grow the business [he dropped out of studying architecture to look after the financial side of Valentino's fashion house from 1960]. We moved to Via Gregoriana, where we had 100 people in the atelier. Giancarlo decided that I should show my collections in Florence as it was a very important market. It all took off for me when the buyers of the American department stores Bloomingdale's, Saks, Macy's, and Neiman Marcus discovered me there."

Giancarlo Giammetti and Valentino at a party in 2006.