Jan 15, 2008
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Valentino, fashion maestro extraordinaire

Jan 15, 2008

ROME, Jan 15, 2008 (AFP) - Fashion mogul Valentino, his loyalties long divided between France and Italy, has chosen Paris to show his final collection, capping a dazzling 45-year career.

Valentino in Paris - Photo : François Guillot/AFP

The venue for the January 23 show, befitting the refined elegance that defines Valentino, will be the Rodin Museum on Paris's upscale Left Bank.

"I want to stop at the height of my glory," the 75-year-old fashion legend said after unveiling his last ready-to-wear collection in October, also in Paris.

His final bow haute couture show promises to be as immaculate as ever and well steeped in his signature colour red.

"It will be a grand collection, a grand show, somewhat unique with a lot of gowns," a spokesman at the Valentino fashion house told AFP.

Announcing his planned departure last September, Valentino said it was "the perfect moment to say adieu to the world of fashion," just two months after an opulent show in Rome marked the House of Valentino's 45th year.

"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."

Valentino however will not be putting down his sewing needle for good, as he is planning to "do something else" with his talent such as designing costumes for the opera or the ballet, he said.

"I want to enjoy myself a bit, because I've also been stuck at fashion houses drawing hundreds of sketches every season," he remarked.

Valentino has presented his women's lines in his beloved Paris since 1989, showing his menswear in Milan.

Creation of Valentino 2007 in Paris
Photo : François Guillot/AFP

The fashion maestro earned his stripes in France, at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, before becoming an apprentice to French designer Guy Laroche.

But it was in Rome that he opened his first fashion house in 1959. While he began turning heads from the start, his big break came in 1968 with his celebrated White Collection, and by the late 1960s everyone who was anyone was buying, including Jackie Kennedy, who was to become his muse.

During a trip to Barcelona, in what he described as "one of the biggest shocks of my life," Valentino met Diana Vreeland, editor-in-chief of the US edition of Vogue, who infected him with her passion for the colour red.

The meeting led to the designer's seductive string of "R.E.D. Valentino" collections.

Two Italian designers -- Gucci's Alessandra Facchinetti and Prada's Ferruccio Pozzoni -- will take up Valentino's baton, for women's and men's fashion, respectively.

The House of Valentino was sold to investors in 1998 and has since changed hands several times. The British investment fund Permira acquired the parent company Valentino Fashion Group last May.

"There's the pope and there's Valentino. In this city I don't know who else is as famous," Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni has said.

By Katia Dolmadjian

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