Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 13 News List

Watch your backs

There was blood on the catwalk as Paris fashion week came to a close this week with a savage and potentially costly bout of recrimination that has surprised even hardened style watchers

By Hadley Freeman  /  THE GUARDIAN , PARIS


Paris fashion week ended on Sunday not in the usual welter of air kissing and champagne toasts, but with a potentially expensive bout of backstabbing that has surprised even hardened style watchers by the savagery displayed.

Less than 24 hours after the Valentino show, the company announced the departure of the label’s creative director, Alessandra Facchinetti, following a “misaligned vision with the company.” It added, with biting brevity: “Her creative contribution and refined artistic talent were greatly appreciated.” Facchinetti had been in place for less than two seasons after the label’s founder, Valentino Garavani, stepped down. What made this announcement particularly harsh was that Facchinetti was unaware she had been fired.

Two hours later, she issued her own statement, saying that she felt “deep regret” to have learned that she was fired from the press “since the company’s top management has not yet seen fit to inform me. I would like to thank Valentino SPA for showing their appreciation of my ‘creative contribution and sophisticated talent’ although I deeply regret the fact that this talent and contribution do not seem to have been adequately acknowledged.”

Valentino’s longtime business partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, soon stepped into the ring, expressing his approval of the removal of Facchinetti: “To pretend to transform and revolutionize the Valentino style is a utopia which is a loss from the start.”

Valentino himself then joined the fray, complaining that Facchinetti had not sufficiently respected his legacy: “There is an existing archive with thousands of dresses where [a designer] can draw and take inspiration from to create a Valentino product that is relevant today. It is a shame that [Facchinetti] didn’t feel this need.”

This unusually public feud reveals the problems increasing numbers of big-name labels face when their founders reach retirement age but the business is too lucrative to close, reaping millions, even billions of US dollars annually, albeit largely through cosmetics, underwear, sunglasses and jeans.

“It’s an incredibly tricky balance for a young designer, and it’s particularly tricky at Valentino where so much of the label’s image was about Valentino’s own extraordinarily glamorous life,” said Vogue’s fashion features editor, Harriet Quick.

“It’s hard not to look at all this as nature’s way of saying that, after a designer goes, you should shut the door. After all, nobody took over from Picasso when he died and you don’t have David Lynch directing movies in Alfred Hitchcock’s name. It does raise questions about what will happen at Ralph Lauren [who is 68] and Giorgio Armani [74] when they step down,” said fashion writer Tim Blanks.

Today more money is involved than ever before and few would want to kill the cash cow of as established a name as Valentino. Moreover, customers already cautious about spending money in the luxury sector are drawn to labels with familiar names. “But how many people want something from a couture label that has not been shepherded by the designer himself?” asked Blanks.

There had been rumors of Facchinetti’s departure all week. It is a far cry from how things seemed just a few months ago. After Faccinetti showed her first collection in February, Giametti expressed his delight, saying she “respected a master.”

This story has been viewed 2299 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top