Sep 4, 2007
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Fashion designer Valentino announces retirement

Sep 4, 2007

ROME, Sept 4, 2007 (AFP) - Legendary Italian designer Valentino, who has dressed the world's most glamorous women for decades, announced his retirement Tuesday september 4th, saying it was time to bid farewell to the world of fashion.

Italian designer Valentino during his fashion show marking 45 years in business in Rome, July 2007
Photo : Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The 75-year-old couturier -- who in July celebrated 45 years in the business with a lavish party and exhibition of his elegant, beautifully crafted evening gowns in Rome -- said he would leave his fashion house in January 2008.

"It's the perfect moment to say adieu to the world of fashion," Valentino said in a statement, adding that he would present his last ready-to-wear collection in Paris in October and a final haute couture line in January.

The designer -- known for his trademark scarlet red dresses -- said his decision has come after the Rome festivities, noting: "It was a moment that will be impossible to repeat."

"Even as a young boy, my passion was to design, and I have been very lucky to be able to do what I have loved all my life. There can be few greater gifts than that," he said.

"I am especially grateful that I have been able to keep my own style over the decades, in spite of the many changes that have taken place in the world of fashion and in its business."

From humble beginnings as the son of an electrical supply store owner in northern Italy, Valentino Garavani became an international force in fashion, turning out everything from couture to cruise wear for his A-list clientele.

Hollywood actresses, American first ladies, socialites and royalty -- Valentino dressed them all. Devotees ranged from Audrey Hepburn and Nancy Reagan to Spain's Queen Sofia and Oscar winners Julia Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow.

He designed the wedding dress in which former US first lady Jacqueline Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis. Thirty-eight other customers ordered the same dress -- an unheard-of total in the made-to-measure world of couture.

After winning a scholarship to the prestigious Chambre Syndicale couture school in Paris when he was 17, the Italian designer worked in the house of Jean Desses in the 1950s, and later served as an assistant at Guy Laroche.

He became friends with two powerhouses in the world of fashion -- Yves Saint Laurent, who retired in 2002, and Karl Lagerfeld, who is still going strong as the creative director for Chanel, Fendi and his own label.

Valentino opened his first atelier in Rome in 1959 and showed his first collection in 1960, but hit the big time with his 1962 line presented in Florence.

The collection was snapped up by important buyers and Valentino never looked back, with business partner Giancarlo Giammetti at his side.

The designer said his future would be "filled with new interests and challenges," hinting that he could work to promote the study of fashion design.

"I realize the house that carries my name will go through some changes but I wish to think that the team of designers of the various lines -- some of whom have been working by my side of many years -- will make me proud of Valentino's products," he said.

Rumours have swirled about possible successors to Valentino, with former Gucci designer Alessandra Facchinetti at the top of the list.

by Katia Dolmadjian

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