Valentino: The end of new beginnings?

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Many column inches and much screenspace has been dedicated to Valentino over the past few weeks. The Business of Fashion has been no exception to this trend. What with the acquisition of Valentino by Permira, the celebration of Valentino’s 45th anniversary at the helm of his eponymous label in Rome last weekend, and the announcement of a 45% investment in Proenza Schouler by Valentino Fashion Group this past week, there has been much to write about — or, more specifically, to speculate on.

Will Valentino continue to design for his label or was this party the beginning of the end? How well will Permira be able to manage Valentino, their first investment in luxury fashion? What will Permira do with the tiny Proenza Schouler business which they snapped up for what seems to be a low valuation? Who will replace Valentino when he goes — will it be the Proenza Schouler boys or will it be Zac Posen, who was sitting in the front row in Rome along with other designers with careers longer and reputations much larger than his? Is there any meaning behind 45 years of Valentino and the 45% investment stake in Proenza Schouler? So many questions.

Vanessa Friedman of the FT has beautifully summed up the rampant speculation in this article, contextualising last weekend’s celebration in Rome with two other major tributes, the Concert for Diana and the Gianni Versace ballet this weekend — memorials for people who really are already gone. She goes on to describe the emotion and the grandeur of the festivities in Rome, trying to decode its significance, not only for Valentino but for an era in fashion more generally.

Valentino And, she ends with the most interesting question of all. By announcing his impending retirement, has Valentino become the equivalent of a lame duck U.S. President? Will he suffer the same fate as Tony Blair and George Bush, now that he has essentially announced his departure but is apparently staying on?

I can’t wait to see how all of this pans out.