ROME, Italy - By now, most everyone in the fashion universe has heard that Alessandra Facchinetti has been ceremoniously removed from her post as Creative Director of Valentino. Some fashion critics, Suzy Menkes included, have spoken against the designer's dismissal, pointing to early successes in her first outings over the past couple of seasons, where she availed herself of Valentino's formidable atelier.
But the story doesn't end there. A report in WWD said that Facchinetti's ousting was not due to poor collections, but rather to a difficult and long creative process, and an inability to build a cohesive team around her. And, perhaps therein lies the point. Designers are no longer able to operate in a vacuum, in studios which are isolated from the business at hand.
Today, not only must designers be able to work to an ever-increasing seasonal cycle, they must also be able to work with all types of people, and communicate and evangelise a vision that everybody at the company, both on the business and creative side, can take pride in. This takes a very special kind of designer indeed, just have a look at Elbaz at Lanvin or Tisci at Givenchy.
It's hard to know exactly what might have happened at Valentino, especially with an atelier that remains fiercely loyal to the brand's founder. But, the fact that Facchinetti was also removed from her last design role at Gucci, suggests that she seems unable to define a brand vision of her own. On the other hand, she apparently thrives in situations where the vision is laid out for her by someone else, as was the case in Gucci when she worked under Tom Ford and under Miuccia Prada, when she designed for Miu Miu.
Long time readers of BOF will know this is the same point I made just over a year ago, just after Facchinetti's appointment. At the time, it wasn't hard to tell that Valentino himself was not entirely supportive of the decision. This was confirmed in a strong statement of support for Facchinetti's replacements, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, who previously designed under Valentino.
Word on the street is that these two designers are extremely talented and have the internal relationships to make the creative process work more smoothly. Whether they can push the Valentino brand forward remains to be seen, but Giambattista Valli, who was hotly tipped to be the new designer, would have been an even better choice.
That said, this business of dramatically turfing designers out after such short tenures, just before or after their shows, has got to stop. It is true what many have said, that designers need the time to settle into their roles and prove themselves. Hopping from one designer to another will only serve to confuse the brand's identity further.
Let's see if Valentino management has the patience this time to see if this design duo can make it work.
Photo courtesy of WWD and Valentino.