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'The Chic' Rides Off: Valentino to Retire After January Couture

Adieu.

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Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti

Photo By Dave Yoder

Alessandra Facchinetti

Photo By WWD Staff

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Photo By Giovanni Giannon

MILAN — Adieu.

That was the simple title on the surprising statement issued Tuesday afternoon by the House of Valentino announcing the retirement of the designer and his longtime business partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, come January. The statement confirmed a report on WWD.com that morning.

The announcement caught observers off guard, since only two months ago sources indicated the duo was close to sealing a three-year contract with the house's new owners, private equity firm Permira. Those talks appear to have broken down, since Valentino, 75, will now do only one more ready-to-wear collection, for spring 2008, and one more couture show, in Paris in January. Valentino and Giammetti are renowned for their tough bargaining, as well as their fondness for the high life.

The designer made no reference to any successor. Sources said this is likely to be Alessandra Facchinetti, the former women's wear designer at Gucci, who has been spotted working in Valentino's headquarters in Rome. Her contract with sportswear maker Moncler expires with the fall-winter 2008-09 collection. Facchinetti was not available for comment Tuesday.

A successor to Valentino was just one of the many questions left unanswered by the designer's statement. While speculation had swirled for the last nine months that Valentino would use the extravagant celebrations in July of the 45th anniversary of the founding of his house as his swan song, both the designer and Giammetti vehemently denied it at every occasion. At that time, sources indicated the two, far from retiring, were instead zeroing in on new contracts with Permira, which acquired the fashion house's parent, Valentino Fashion Group, in May.

Permira and Valentino executives declined to comment. Permira said it would put out a release today, although officials declined to discuss its subject.

One source said Valentino "is really upset," while another said that, under Permira, the designer thought he could act more as a dictator, but that "no one would spend a lot of money on a company and then delegate carte blanche to someone else."

A source well acquainted with Valentino's personality said he was struck by the wording of the company's press release and the fact that it did not identify or endorse a successor for the house. "That's what I noticed," the source said of the statement. "[Valentino] sent out a strong signal of his disapproval."
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