A few days ago, a Valentino executive was quoted in the Italian press as saying it would be "inelegant" to comment on the rumor that Alessandra Facchinetti is on her way out. Never a truer word has been spoken, especially as the announcement that she had been handpicked (by the current owners, from a large field) to succeed the retiring Maestro was released on September 5, 2007. That is, not even 13 months before Facchinetti had to put her third collection for the house on the Paris runway. Yet another case, then, of the increasing speed of the revolving-door syndrome that is luring in and spitting out so many tender young talents at old, established brands under new ownership.
So watching Facchinetti's show was a weird experience for those who had been tracking signs of her sensitivity to aspects of the house canon—in particular, her gentle touch with chiffon and ruffles, modernized by a refined taste for no-color colors. It was always going to take time to do a good renovation job on Valentino's daywear—frozen as it is in the time of the ladies who lunched—and, sure enough, Facchinetti's answers weren't quite there yet. For Spring, they came in the form of soft, drapey silk polka-dot dresses, and shorts suits with raised, coiled, jeweled embroidery settled in necklines or as epaulets. The embellishment was over-heavy, but you could see what the designer was getting at in the way of softening and relaxing a look that formerly only sat well with an over-lacquered hairdo. Certainly, much more needs to be done to resolve that issue in this house, and Facchinetti's device of a curved-up, sporty side slit (the sort you see on running shorts) didn't help matters much.
Still, to give her credit where it's due, Facchinetti's subtle, pale lemon and violet nudes later on did evoke the elusive quality of femininity that is expected of this label. And when it came to the big test—the red draped georgette evening dress—hers was unarguably lovely: a one-shouldered affair, made to look modern with the addition of flat jeweled slippers. The collection might have benefited from a follow-through on the fuzzily frothy blouses that could have been spot-on as a great selling item for Spring. In the end, though, a poignant sense of might-have-been hung in the air as Facchinetti took her bow. Whatever transpires next, the task of continuing this brand's integrity is surely not going to get any easier.