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Valentino: The Shape of Things to Come

Alessandra Facchinetti's insecurities and nervousness about her first couture collection for Valentino quickly abated when she began working with the seamstresses in the house's storied atelier.

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ROME — Alessandra Facchinetti's insecurities and nervousness about her first couture collection for Valentino quickly abated when she began working with the seamstresses in the house's storied atelier.

"Working with these ladies has been incredible. They gave me confidence through their expertise, passion and intelligence," said the brunette Facchinetti, sitting in the retired designer's former and untouched office at the house's headquarters here. (For the record, the office of Giancarlo Giammetti, Valentino's business partner, just opposite, remains vacant.)

The rarefied atmosphere that characterizes couture further helped Facchinetti maintain her composure. "For the first time in this business, I felt serene and calm, a bit like when you're holding a newborn," she smiled.

Once past the differences with ready-to-wear in terms of construction and which season is involved, Facchinetti set out in April to develop her 38 looks. "I guess creating a couture gown is a bit like having a child — they both grow day by day, step by step," noted Facchinetti, her hair tightly pulled back in a bun to better display a pair of 18th century Indian earrings with diamonds.

When the designer teeters into the atelier where seamstresses in white lab coats work to painstakingly create the gowns, it's evident the soft-spoken Facchinetti respects and reveres these workers and that she's probably less intimidating than the house's founder.

Convinced couture is intrinsic to the Valentino brand, Facchinetti's goal is to attract younger customers, especially in an age when individuality, service and quality can elevate one brand above another.

"Couture is still a dream but a less theatrical one compared to the past, though it still maintains its luxe factor and exaggerated shapes," she said. "Today it offers a sign of distinction that many are seeking and can be very modern if you think of Riccardo Tisci [at Givenchy], for example."

In terms of fashion concepts, Facchinetti said she wanted to clean the slate and go back to the roots and heart of couture by focusing on shapes and workmanship. As her storyboard reveals, rather than focusing on a specific theme, Facchinetti mixes various periods, cultures and inspirations and, of course, iconic Valentino staples such as red, lavish embroidery and lace.
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