Valentino, one of the undisputed kings of fashion whose name is synonymous with elegance, will retire in January from the couture house he founded nearly half a century ago.

The 75-year-old said on Tuesday it was the perfect moment to say goodbye to the world of fashion after 45 years of dressing European royalty and Hollywood stars. Valentino Garavani is known the world over only by his first name.

Valentino was and still is a great of the fashion world, said film star Sophia Loren, who often graced the front rows of his shows.

His class, his talent ... have seduced the whole world, she said.

Valentino's signature scarlet evening gowns and conservative style have kept him a favorite for red carpet events, where he has dressed famous names like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Cate Blanchett and Julia Roberts.

I have been lucky to have turned my teenage passion into my work ... and to retain my own style, despite the big changes in the world of fashion, Valentino said in a statement.

He held three days of parties in July to celebrate his 45 years as a couturier and had been widely expected to announce his retirement then.

His goodbye to fashion is a sad event, said Rome deputy mayor Maria Pia Garavaglia, recalling the star-studded July parties that evoked memories of the Dolce Vita days in the 1960s when Italy's capital was known as Hollywood on the Tiber.

Valentino said he was already working on the women's ready-to-wear collection to be displayed in Paris in October and a final haute couture show for January.


Valentino is widely ranked alongside Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld as the last of the great designers from an era before fashion became a global, highly commercial industry run as much by accountants and marketing executives as the couturiers.

His retirement comes amid a period of upheaval in the Italian fashion industry, with many of its biggest names seeking new owners to reap the benefits of an unprecedented boom for luxury goods from monogrammed luggage to designer gowns.

Valentino Fashion Group's new owners, the European private equity firm Permira, is rumored to want a younger, more commercially aware designer to help it expand into new markets.

Italian newspapers and industry sources have suggested former Gucci designer Alessandra Facchinetti is in the running.

Born in 1932 in Voghera in northern Italy, Valentino left his home country as a teenager to study fashion in Paris.

He opened a fashion house in Rome in 1959 with the backing of his father and an associate, who later pulled out because the designer was spending too much money.

Valentino and his long-time business partner Giancarlo Giammetti started a new company and his breakthrough came in 1962.

His return to Rome coincided with the start of an Italian film boom immortalized by La Dolce Vita when the comings and goings of actors and starlets were chronicled for the tabloids by motorcycle-riding paparazzi.

(Additional reporting by Rachel Sanderson in London)