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MILAN — Matteo Marzotto acts no differently from most anxious new authors as he flips through his autobiography, “Volare Alto” [“Flying High”], which hits shelves in Italy this month. “I would change every word now,” says the fashion entrepreneur and textile scion as he sits in his office here, decorated with paintings of his favorite motorcycle and red helicopter, as well as a photo of himself meeting the late Pope John Paul II.
Marzotto recognizes it might be a bit premature to be recording his life story at 43. “I have no specific qualifications, nor am I a writer, but I observe the world,” he says simply in his book.
This story first appeared in the December 1, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
He’s certainly had quite the vantage point: The former chairman of Valentino and heir to the Marzotto textile fortune, he took over Vionnet earlier this year with plans to resuscitate it. Marzotto is also president of Enit, Italy’s national agency for tourism; has formed a luxury real estate group, Montecristo Holding; sits on the board of watch and jewelry brand Morellato & Sector, and is president of the Italian fashion contest Mittelmoda. And as one of Italy’s most eligible bachelors, he is a fixture on the social circuit.
His autobiography provided an opportunity to set the record straight, both about the fashion industry and his much-gossiped-about personal life. (Fashion followers who are non-Italian speakers might have to wait a few months for their fix: Marzotto’s tome won’t be available in English until February.)
“Sometimes I wonder, ‘Why are people saying this of me, when I’ve always behaved in a way that is exactly the opposite?’” he writes. “Yes, I know I am privileged, but I can’t stand being categorized.”
Those expecting juicy gossip about Naomi Campbell or any of his other dalliances will be disappointed. “This is not a carnet of conquests,” Marzotto says in his preface. Rather, the book covers ground from his first days working in the factories of the Marzotto textile company to his passion for sports, which he believes is valuable preparation for the challenges of life. He also writes about his late sister Annalisa and her battle with cystic fibrosis. (Proceeds from his book will go toward the Marzotto Foundation, which was created to fund research into the disease.)
Those interested in the mechanics of the fashion industry will find grist for the mill as Marzotto delves into the complicated web of his familial relationships. He sharply criticizes his uncle, Pietro Marzotto, the family patriarch and formerly the main shareholder of the Marzotto company (he sold his shares in 2004). “I’m leaving because there is nobody here that can take the situation in his hands,’” Pietro Marzotto once said, according to the younger Marzotto’s book. “He was wrong, grossly wrong,” Marzotto writes.
“He was wonderful, but not enlightened,” he says of his uncle now.
Marzotto also remembers clashes with Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti, the couturier’s business partner. “Giammetti — an extraordinary character, very difficult, sometimes disagreeable, in any case a person who has made the history of fashion — called me ‘il pidocchioso’ [‘the miserly one’]. With him there were memorable fights,” he writes. “I had to learn to insult, these were unforgettable verbal fights, but fun.”
The entrepreneur fondly describes Valentino as “reserved, affable, at times also sweet, extraordinarily creative.” He denies he ever pressured the designer to leave. “This is simply not true,” says Marzotto. “I am the one that most supported them, but I also had to think of the future.”
In fact, he writes, “when we were finalizing the acquisition, I had an important role in renewing their contract.”
Regardless of how that partnership evolved, Marzotto stands behind the 2007 sale of Valentino Fashion Group to private equity fund Permira for $3.55 billion. “I think [it] was a brilliant operation. A textbook one,” he states.