After the departure of Valentino Garavani, in 2007, the company’s new owners, private equity firm Permira, struggled to find the right creative leadership for the business. Though still a red carpet favourite, the brand was unable to reclaim the international cachet it once had. But since 2008, when Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli took the reins as co-creative directors, the duo have taken the fashion industry by surprise, breathing new creative energy into the brand and rocketing Valentino back to the forefront of fashion. Sales have improved, and lucrative accessories now account for nearly half of sales in some stores. They have also revitalized the menswear business.
Chiuri and Piccioli have been creative partners for over twenty years. Alumni of the Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome, Chiuri and Piccioli first met through a mutual friend in the early 1980s, forming a fast friendship. On Chiuri’s appointment as a designer at Fendi in 1989, she immediately drafted Piccioli to work alongside her in the accessories department where they stayed for many years.
In 1999 the pair were personally approached by Valentino to join the company as accessory designers and steadily revamped the luxury brand’s handbag and eyewear collections. In 2003 the duo were selected to design the brand's Red diffusion line. Then, shortly after Valentino Garavani’s retirement, Chiuri and Piccioli were called upon to oversee the entire accessory range, before being appointed co-creative directors.