Major Domo – Estate Manager – Butler

Chateau de Videville, Valentino’s estate near Paris

Perfection seeking Majordomo – Estate Manager, Head Butler-Valet, “Jack of all trades”, does little to describe the excellent top skills of Michael Kelly, who takes care of the fashion designer icon Valentino and his several Luxury Homes. Although recently retired from the grueling demands of Couture, Mr. Valentino still lives his everlasting high-profile VIP lifestyle in a social and traveling whirlwind.

TIP – Indulge your imagination and learn more about what great domestic help staffing entails. Buy the documentary video Valentino The Last Emperor, starring Valentino, Giancarlo Giammetti, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jeanne Beker. You will want to view more then once how the Old School worked a lifestyle with the meaning and art of couture, and how luxury homes are maintained to the highest standards of care. The remarkable Valentino Collection is breathtaking, revealing his dazzling intensity with passion of heart and soul, and you’ll marvel at the devoted team who put it together for decades– some of whom worked with him for 50 years. A wonderful archive of historical importance.

Michael Kelly (right) overseeing the table setting at Valentino’s Chalet in Switzerland

Don’t forget to view the special feature: A Perfect Life: Around the World with Valentino, a terrific glimpse behind the scenes of his more intimate personal life and social world. Kelly oversees a full staff with White Glove detailed ‘hands on’ participation in formal Sterling Silver Service; consummately serving Valentino and his life partner Giancarlo Giammetti, the talented and deep feeling man who stood behind Valentino unwaveringly through infamous ups and downs.

The famous Chateau near Paris, the Chalet in Gstaad (too much more to get into here), are all impeccably cared for, including his famously pampered Pugs who travel everywhere with Valentino, and steal every social scene they’re in. To be a top First Butler – Valet, Majordomo or Estate Manager of Kelley’s caliber (he also speaks several languages), requires highly qualified skills and experience. Kelly’s charm and description of what he’s up against with daily tasks does a great job in truthful depiction rather then glossing over challenges that arise, a great example of how one needs to “be prepared to be prepared”. I love Kelly’s relaxed manner and hearty laugh, which shows his sometimes goofy personality rather then the formal British Butlers most people have in mind when they imagine a Butler-Valet, a fun character who knows he’s playing a role in a drama. Valentino trusts him implicitly to manage his private home life and the never ending Events fussed over. Kelly earned the respect and admiration of so many of Valentino’s friends and acquaintances, he’s become a legend of his own. Many of our clients have been to Parties he’s overseen, and they are legendary.

Valentino at 78 in 2010

The Chateau is a marvelous home that only the French can create in their distilling perfection (as embodied in their exquisite perfumes). But it was Valentino’s need for loving restoration that brought it back from the state of disrepair it had fallen into. You can almost smell the food, wine, flowers, everything is shown to be sublime in perfect lighting. Not everyone wants to live on this level of grandeur (several houses, the staff, the jet, the cars, the pugs!…), yet, it’s a standard of cultivation one must appreciate historically for its affect on raising a cultural bar. You did not have to be born to wealth or privilege to reach it.

the young Chanel

Coco Chanel

Only Karl Lagerfeld, who took over the reins of Coco Chanel’s empire in 1983, understands and maintains the same level of luxury quality that younger gens don’t practice much today. They prefer a more casual and GREEN approach (ok, jet setting around the world is not exactly green…). Like many of the remarkable women who visioned and created a new lifestyle in History, Chanel remains the mysterious iconic figure behind modern life and Couture, which is unmatched to date. Most women don’t know that Chanel freed them by daring to wear mens pants, among other social taboos like “you’re never too old to work that career”, which she shattered forever, and Valentino took to heart. You might wish to see her story from “rags to riches”, wonderfully portrayed in Coco Before Chanel by French actress Audrey Tatou.

I’m reminded of Lagerfeld’s tongue-in-cheek quote that when he was four years old, he asked his mother if he could have a Valet. That line became famous with many more quips to come like “I love change, I am attached to nothing”, as he further explored and found photography to express his inner world, and expanded the Lagerfeld artistic Vision.

Karl Lagerfeld in a self portrait photograph

Karl Lagerfeld in a self portrait photo

Although Lagerfeld finally sold his museum quality furnishings and artifacts for a more modern lifestyle, his rigorous standards of perfection remain which I believe was not only greatly inspired by Chanel, but also set the high bar he needed to reach beyond. See Lagerfeld Confidential for his iconic POV into Couture and life of luxury. These two fashion lions (Lagerfeld and Valentino) are the last to portray it, now that Yves Saint Laurent passed into the spirit hall of fame. I’ll leave the story of how devoted to perfection and who Saint Laurent admired and wanted to emulate for another time. Stay tuned.

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