By  on June 27, 2007

Everyone knows Valentino Garavani is a prolific sketch artist. He loves to sketch delicate gowns and perfectly tailored skirts. He loves to sketch women's clothing.

But when it comes to men's wear, the designer prefers to give broad ideas and delegate the specifics to his assistants.

You can't blame him: He's a couturier and an admirer of the female form. And although he doesn't sketch men's suits and prefers to wear the bespoke Caraceni suits he's been having made since long before his men's line existed, Valentino men's wear is never-theless a valid expression of the Valentino lifestyle.

"A man shouldn't be an accessory to a well-dressed woman," the designer said from his studio in Rome. "He should have his own identity."

Indeed. Valentino men's wear, which represented about 10 percent of total sales, or around 24 million euros (or $32.3 million at current exchange) in 2006, is very much about a chic, retro kind of sophistication peppered with just enough hubris.

Case in point: On Monday, the designer opted to forgo the standard runway format for his men's spring 2008 collection. He instead staged a gentlemen's club scene, lined up 35 clean-cut types at the bar and dressed them in cropped chinos, sharp blue blazers, preppy knits and graphic silk jacquard dinner jackets.

At a certain point four performers from Paris' Crazy Horse strolled out — full feathers, no tops — and performed as Val's men sipped brandy and looked coolly unaffected.

"I have two words for Valentino men's wear: sheer elegance," said Tommy Fazio, men's fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman.

Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York carry a small but important offering of Valentino men's wear. Evening looks in particular are strong sellers, according to retailers.

Saks Fifth Avenue dedicated its holiday 2006 windows to Valentino. His stunning couture gowns were the main attraction, but the stylist also needed a strong men's look and found it in a Valentino black sequined dinner jacket. A day later Tommy Hilfiger came in and bought the jacket out of the window.

"Like the house, the Valentino men's collection is very tasteful. There can be a little flash of sexiness but never in a vulgar way," said Michael Macko, vice president of fashion, public relations and special events, men's and home at Saks Fifth Avenue. "It's not trying to be fashion-forward, but it's for a man who wants to look in-season and also appropriate."Graziano De Boni, president and chief executive officer of Valentino USA, says Valentino's men's collection offers a huge growth opportunity and that the company is studying the implementation of a two-year plan to significantly develop men's wear.

"There are very few luxury brands that a guy has no problem wearing," De Boni said. "Valentino is one of them."

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