By and  on June 14, 2007

ROME — Don't get ready to say arrivederci to Valentino just yet.

After a press conference here Wednesday to reveal details of the designer's 45th anniversary celebrations in July, Giancarlo Giammetti, his longtime business partner, forcefully insisted the show is a celebration, not a farewell.

"It will not be Valentino's last," Giammetti told WWD, again batting away speculation the designer would use the occasion to step down. The rumors only increased following Italian investment fund Permira's purchase of a majority stake in Valentino Fashion Group, the design house's parent, last month.

Giammetti insisted the new ownership structure will have little impact on his role or that of Valentino. "We have a bulletproof contract; nothing has changed," he said.

His comments followed those he and Valentino made to WWD last week reiterating they had no plans to retire — while at the same time indicating how the house might be structured in the future. Valentino Fashion Group has been searching for a potential replacement for the designer for the last two years, but with no success.

"I'm not thinking of retirement," Valentino told WWD last week. "In the future, we'll see. I love my work too much. There's still a lot to do."

Giammetti last week called Valentino irreplaceable and downplayed the succession issue. "Valentino is Valentino. Valentino is the man behind the brand and its creative force," he said, adding that any other designer brought into the mix would merely be a creative director and not an outright replacement for Valentino.

Meanwhile, the presence of Matteo Marzotto, president of Valentino SpA, at Wednesday's press conference also indicated there might not be any major management changes afoot. "You don't change a winning team, do you?" said the executive, who sold his shares to Permira through the Marzotto family's financial vehicle, ICG. "There is excellent chemistry [with Permira]."

The investment fund currently owns 53.6 percent of VFG and plans to launch a bid for the remainder at a potential total cost of $3.5 billion. In addition to Valentino, VFG owns a majority of Hugo Boss.

As for the three days of celebrations in July to mark the designer's 45th anniversary, the presence of Rome's mayor, Walter Veltroni, and of Italy's minister of art and culture, Francesco Rutelli, at the press conference showed the significance of the festivities to the city. Veltroni also took the opportunity to say he was taking steps to create a museum dedicated to Valentino, which will permanently display creations by the couturier."I've been away for so long, but I wanted to return to the city that has seen my first steps," said Valentino, wearing a tailored sage-green suit.

The designer plans to show 64 couture dresses during his first show in Rome in 17 years. "Usually, it's 40 dresses at the most, but this time I said to myself, 'I don't care if it will be much slower, they'll just have to wait until the end, sit back and relax,'" joked the designer in his art-decorated office after the press conference, held at the Sala Marco Aurelio in the town hall, the Campidoglio.

The 45th anniversary festivities kick off with the inauguration of a retrospective exhibition on July 6, and the designer's couture show will be held on July 7 at 5 p.m. in two rooms, the Sale Incisa and Baglivi of a restructured medieval building, the Complesso Monumentale of Santo Spirito in Sassia, next to Castel Sant'Angelo.

"The setting will be classic, yet technological as well," said a spokeswoman cryptically, adding that flowers will be flown in from London and catering will be delivered by Turin's historical Daturi e Motta.

The show will be followed by a black-tie dinner and ball at the Parco dei Daini, within the Villa Borghese estate. There are expected to be about 1,000 guests, ranging from Gwyneth Paltrow to Donald Trump and Meryl Streep. Set designer Dante Ferretti will stage the evening event, as well as the dinner held the night before at the Temple of Venus.

"For the first time, Ferretti will re-create the Temple of Venus with a special procedure," said Rutelli, explaining that, for a few weeks, visitors will be able to see how the Temple was originally built. "This is a unique occasion to see how its Corinthian marble columns originally were," said Rutelli. The Temple of Venus dates back to 135 A.C. Rutelli also revealed that Valentino will contribute to the restoration of the Temple with a donation of 200,000 euros, or $260,000 at current exchange.

The retrospective exhibition, "Valentino in Rome: 45 Years of Style," will display 300 outfits and archival material at the Ara Pacis Museum, recently restructured and expanded by Richard Meier. The show is curated by Patrick Kinmoth and Antonio Monfreda.On Sunday, July 8, Valentino will launch the house's latest perfume, Rock 'n Rose Couture.

"I almost have no time to think," said Giammetti, who is in charge of organizing the events, which are being funded by the company. "Rome is being very generous, open to new and different things, and we are staging events in sacred, antique and artistic locations, as if these events were art works themselves."

Rutelli said 400 hotel rooms have been booked for that weekend and more than 1,000 people are working on the events.

Meanwhile, Valentino SpA has tapped Dante D'Angelo to oversee its licensing and branding activities in a newly created role. D'Angelo began his job June 1. "The company has strengthened its management team," said Stefano Sassi, chief executive of Valentino Fashion Group SpA, parent of the Valentino fashion house. D'Angelo oversees Valentino's licensing agreements with its partners, including Procter & Gamble for beauty, Safilo for eyewear and Timex Group for watches. Prior to joining Valentino, D'Angelo oversaw marketing and licensing for Versace. There, he was managing a project to relaunch the Versus diffusion label.

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