But the designer portrayed his retirement as being spurred by his 45th anniversary. At the July celebrations marking the event, Valentino rejoiced in his King of Rome and fashion role, feted by the crème de la crème of fashion, Hollywood and society. Among the 1,000 guests were Uma Thurman, Sienna Miller, Anne Hathaway, Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford, Princess Caroline of Monaco and Princess Marie Chantal of Greece. The festivities were said to have cost north of $10 million — most of it paid by Valentino Fashion Group.
"The great event that celebrated my 45 years of work in Rome in July was a magical and unrepeatable moment," said Valentino. "It would be impossible to match the emotion and the joy for the friendship and consideration that the whole world expressed. Thus, I have decided that this is the perfect moment to say goodbye to the fashion world."
He added that he likes to think, "As the English say, of leaving the party when it's still full."
Valentino said, "I realize that the maison that bears my name will change, but I hope that the creative team that will design the various lines where my assistants work will know how to continue my work in a way that will make me proud.
"I was lucky to be able to turn my teenage passion into a job that has always given me joy and recognition, and of having kept my style regardless of all major changes fashion underwent," the designer said.
As for the future of the house, Armando Branchini, president of Milan-based luxury goods consultancy Intercorporate, stressed it will be critical for the company to update its image and aesthetic sensibility gradually.
"If you do something too dramatic, you run the risk of both losing the customers you already have and not gaining any new ones," he said.
In July, Valentino Fashion Group acquired a 45 percent stake in Proenza Schouler, which stirred speculation the company was grooming that label's two designers, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough, to take over for Valentino. But Facchinetti now seems to be the likely candidate. Branchini deemed her a sound choice in terms of updating the brand's image.