- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 7, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Even though iconic designer Valentino officially retired in 2008, the 79-year-old has no interest in slowing down.

“Retirement is for old people,” he said with a laugh Wednesday at an awards luncheon in his honor.

The Fashion Institute of Technology presented the Italian designer with the 2011 Couture Council Award for artistry during an elegant daytime soiree at Lincoln Center, which becomes home base for the next eight days for stylists, retailers and editors during New York Fashion Week.

“All my life I worked very, very hard and I didn’t have any other idea than to make women look sensational,” he told The Associated Press before the event.

Designer Diane von Furstenberg and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour flanked Valentino during the presentation. Von Furstenberg described him as “divine.”

“He’s a wonderful person and he’s so warm and so generous,” she said of her longtime friend.

Wintour became uncharacteristically emotional while presenting the award in front of an audience of fashion insiders.

Noting his longtime commitment to charity work with HIV/AIDS, animals and senior citizens organizations, Wintour told the crowd that Valentino is much more than his flashy lifestyle, lavish homes and “pampered pugs.”

“His greatest acts tend to go unseen,” said Wintour.

“If there should be one `Grand Couturier’ in Italy, it will only and forever be him,” said Karl Lagerfeld, last year’s recipient, in a letter read during the luncheon.

After 45 years of dressing royalty and Hollywood’s most glamorous starlets _ including Anne Hathaway’s red-carpet Oscars gown earlier this year _ Valentino may not be ready to bow out of spotlight just yet.

Following the success of the 2009 documentary on his life, “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” there are talks of a musical. While nothing has been confirmed, he says he’d “be delighted” to see his life in song and dance.

Keeping busy, said Valentino, “keeps me in a very good mood and alive.”

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