- Artist name: Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani
- Job: fashion designer, founder
- Career duration: about 60 years
- Country: Italy
- Net worth: $1.5 billion (in 2012)
|“I am very grateful to Giancarlo, because he hides things from me to keep me in a good mood. There are only three things I can do – make a dress, decorate a house, and entertain people” – Valentino|
Valentino Garavani is a legendary Italian designer who is known for designing clothes for famous stars in the world including Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy, Queen Paola of Belgium and Princess Margaret. Universally admired for his exquisite couture creations and romantic red-carpet gowns, Valentino won Neiman Marcus Award in 1967, which is one of the most prestigious awardsin the fashion industry. Having succeeded for many decades, Valentino is now in his eighties and retired from his eponymous label 10 years ago but still remains a significant figure in the fashion world.
It is however quite interesting that Valentino, such a talented and ingenious designer, actually has a fatal red flag for owinga high reputation. How could he nevertheless build such a powerful personal brand which has been able to sustain for decades?
Because his personal brand is partnered with someone who can perfectly make up for his weaknesses!
Unique Values of Valentino that Differentiate Him from Others
Valentino must be a designer who has the noblest personal brand in the fashion world. None of his personal life nor his career is close to something called ordinary. He’s a billionaire makingfancy and sensational dresses for popular celebrities in his sumptuous house, which is totally far from our ordinary lives.
- A Designer for Unordinary People
Valentino is clearly targeted in his career. He’s a designer for famous people. He said, “I like famous people; outsize talents fascinate me.” He designed couture dresses, all in black and white, for Jacqueline Kennedy to wear during her year of mourning after J.F.K.’s death. Kim Cattrall, Jennifer Aniston, and Gwen Stefani wore Valentino to the Golden Globes. Jennifer Aniston went to the Oscars in a Valentino ready-to-wear V-necked black gown, and Souza succeeded in outfitting four of the Hobbits from The Lord of the Rings in Valentino tuxedos.
His love towards unordinary people is actually related to his aspiration: he wants to make clothes that women want to wear, and be well dressed and feminine. As his focus is on dressing important and beautiful women, especially in the earlier stage of his career, he wasn’t in the category of carrying out meaningful progresses in the fashion area like Tom Ford, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani or John Galliano. “Valentino never strays over the border to the odd,” said John Fairchild, a publisher and previous editor in chief of Women’s Wear Daily. “He makes, probably, the most beautiful evening dresses in the world, but he is not one of those designers who influence the course of fashion.”
However, it is his sucha clear targeting strategy that made him beloved by numerous celebrities and win the reputation of designing dresses which make women look the most feminine, seductive and sensational.
- A King of High Living
A staff of nearly 50 is employed to maintain Valentino’s 152-foot yacht and his five homes – a villa in Rome, a town house in London, Chalet Gifferhorn, in Gstaad, a Louis XIII château near Paris, and a Manhattan apartment. Valentino is just a symbol of luxurious high living. Moreover, even today, Valentino’s villa on the Appia Antica, in Rome, armed guards stand sentry at the stone gate. There are many other great designers who have wonderful houses and beautiful things, but Valentino is at another level. He embellishes every single detail of his house with the best quality by himself.Making dresses for unordinary people, he himself is also an unordinary designer with an elegant lifestyle.
- A Long-living Legend
Anotherthing you can never leave out when it comes to Valentino’s brand is that he has stayed on top for very long time. Actually this is a combined result between his talents, luck and clever decision on when to pivot in his career.
When he begun his career in Rome in the 60s and 70s, people would change their clothes three or four times a day. Also, he had Arab princesses who adored the clothes so much that they would order everything. It was a perfect stage for him. He was talented, and at the same time very lucky to meet such conditions. Also, he always knew when to change and how to do it. For example, while there had been many big names in the Italian fashion industry that had already been disappeared, only Valentino made the successful jump to Paris when high fashion left Rome.
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- A Genius Who Lives In His World Last but not least, there is a naturally cultivated mystique in his personal brand, first because of his personality which makes him hardly open up to others except few close people. And more importantly, because he can actually live in his own world with the help of ‘his partner’.
Given Valentino doesn’t keep tabs on the fast-changing trends in the fashion area, as he doesn’t even use the computer, fax, e-mail, or text messaging, it’s strange that Valentino’s business has been successful. He is never somebody to take care of business. All he ever wants is to live in his perfect little world where he can keep distance from bad news and commit to designing clothes. It was his ‘partner’ who made Valentino have such dream come true, at the same time achieve successes in the business (We are going to deal with his partner soon).
Valentino’s Personal Branding Traits
One of the biggest characteristics of Valentino’s personal branding is the clear contrast between his strengths and weaknesses. Rather than trying to hide his weaknesses, he opted for embracing them while focusing on his strengths and having a partner who can make up for them. Below is the compilation of some of his strengths and weaknesses.
- He has meticulous eyes capturing beauty. One of the things that proves he’s a talented designer is that he has very sophisticated and gifted eyes of viewing beauty. It has started from his young age. The young Valentino used to watch very closely what his girl cousins were wearing —they dressed so well. And the current Valentino sits on a low wall, while being fascinated by the beauty of the countryside. “I embellish everything I touch.” His passion and talents in interior design must be also the result of his pursuit of beauty.
- He has a clear aspiration as a designer.Valentino is a passionate designer with a clear direction in his mind. He said, “Forget about fashion—the grunge look, the messy look. I cannot see women destroyed, uncombed, or strange. I want to make a girl who arrives someplace and makes people turn and say”—he gasps—“‘You look sensational!’” It must be his clear aspiration of making beautiful clothes along with effective targeting strategy focusing on popular female celebrities that made him possible to have succeeded through all these decades.
- He knows when and how to make a bold decision.
There are timings when you need to make a bold decision in order to take a leap to the next stage. And Valentino is really good at that even from his young age. The time he left Italy for Paris to study fashion design was when he was only 17 years old, and it is what he decided and asked his parents for permission, which was then followed by their support. In fact, his capacity for making a bold decision as well as his confidence in doing that are closely related to the trust and support from his parents. They mostly let him do anything he wanted — but they were not over affectionate, and were smart enough to allow him to go to Paris.
- He is visionary. Valentino always prepare for the smooth transition to the next stage, which is the main reason why he could sustain for such a long time. While he knows he’s at the end of his career, his preparation for the future is still ongoing. Recently he has been dropping most of the old-time women he dressed and going for the starlets to go over to the next generation.
- He can maintain calmness.Influenced by his mom who is rather controlled, conservative, Valentino is far from being moody. He’s super calm, and this is one of the reasons why he can long run. There have been no nervous breakdowns, no hospitalizations, no shrinks in Valentino’s life, and it is closely related to his ability to maintain calmness no matter what happens. You could never see Valentino drinking binges or roaming the streets half naked, as Yves Saint Laurent is said to have done.
Weaknesses: A Flower Growing In a Hothouse
Valentino is similar to a hothouse flower who needs to be protected in order to thrive. While he is very talented in and passionate about designing dresses, he was only interested in making beautiful clothes, and didn’t want to think of financial stuffs such as making money or running a business. He just wanted to stay in his perfect little world. It actually brought a serious risk in his business, as in one year, he had spent so much money making dresses that his father’s associate pulled out investment from his business. Staying focused on the courtier’s art, Valentino is definitely lack of ability to draw a big picture or build a business, which are crucial qualities in order to build a powerful personal brand and achieve successes.
Valentino Would Have Not Been Successful Without This Person: Partnership Personal Branding
Luckily, Valentino was wise enough to find a perfect way to solve this problem: finding a ‘partner’who can make up for his weaknesses. Giancarlo Giammetti,an Italian businessman full of charm, intelligence and keen business sense to work, is Valentino’s business partner, onetime boyfriend, and closest companion. If Valentino haven’t met Giammetti, there would have not been Valentino that we know today.
Most of all, driven by a constant quest for efficiency, Giammetti brought financial success to an ever-expanding international business. In particular, in the 1970s, Giammetti was one of the first to exploit licensing to bring in extra revenue. By the late 80s there were 50 licenses, ranging from bathroom tilescigarette lighters, perfumes, sunglasses to jeans. It was on the licenses that Valentino and Giammetti got rich. And in 1998, they really cashed in, when they sold the company for approximately $300 million to HdP, an Italian conglomerate controlled, in part, by the late Gianni Agnelli, the head of Fiat. In 2002, Valentino S.p.A., with revenues of more than $180 million, was sold by HdP to Marzotto Apparel, a Milan-based textile giant, for $210 million.
In addition, Giammetti enabled Valentino to be focused only on what he’s good at, designing, by taking charge of things that Valentino isn’t interested or capable of doing. Thanks to Giammetti, Valentino could be much more relaxed and concentrate on his designer job with more creativity and tranquility. Valentino said, “I pay no attention to this life. I am always locked in my design studio. I am very grateful to Giancarlo, because he hides things from me to keep me in a good mood. There are only three things I can do—make a dress, decorate a house, and entertain people.”
What Made Valentino and Giammetti a Perfect Match?
- They are complementary.They are complementary in that a weakness of one side corresponds to a strength of the other side. While Valentino is Mr. Inside who stays focused on the art and beauty, Giammetti is Mr. Outside who keeps his eyes on the big picture. While Valentino always keeps calmness, Giammetti is somewhat agitated or moody. Giammetti toldVanity Fair, “The day after a fashion show, I wake up at four o’clock to go on the Internet. Women’s Wear Dailyand all the newspapers come out in the morning. So I’m a nervous wreck. Mr. Valentino receives a wake-up call at 11, and I hear from him: ‘How are you?’ I ask him, ‘Don’t you want to know what the reviews were?’ ‘Oh, how are they?’ ‘They’re O.K. You know, she wrote better the last time.’ ‘Oh, she’s a bitch.’ That’s it. He never looks at the newspapers.”
- Their goals head towards the same direction.
Valentino wanted to make beautiful dresses and Giammetti wanted to run a business to make it happen. When Giammetti joined Valentino’s business, the financial situation was not good, almost in the crisis of bankruptcy. This was when their amazing partnership stood out remarkably. While Valentino was creating highly sophisticated and creative designs for his collections, Giammetti brought in a lot of money by exploiting a lot of licenses covering various goods. As a result, they could successfully fight against the financial crisis, and they have never faced the same economic problems since then. It was possible as they headed towards the same direction while working hard on the same goal with a clearly divided role.
- There is ‘love’ between them.
Some may think that it is because Valentino and Giammetti were once a couple that their perfect partnership could happen. However, their love relationship actually ended in 1972, while their partnership has continue longer even until now.“It’s probably a fraternal love now”, according to Gwyneth Paltrow, who has been amuse to Valentino and a close friend of Giammetti’s since the late 90s. “You know what people are like after they’ve always been together? There’s this love between them. It’s not sexual, but it’s a love they don’t have for anyone else. It’s old love. It’s survival love.” This is love that is formed throughout the course of things they’ve gone together, which makes them more willing to cherish one another and have more generosity as well. Although not every moment is perfect, perhaps having arguments and disagreements, in the end they can understand the fundamental sentiments of one another.
- Valentino respects Giammetti’s contribution to his success.
While it is theoretically possible that two men receive the same amount of spotlight at the same time, it is usually not the case. There’s a saying, “When two men ride the same horse, one has to be in the back.” One of the most frequent mistakes that people make when they become successful is that they forget to appreciate contribution made by people who support you and don’t show enough respect that they actually deserve, which might bring unrecoverable damage into your relationship with them.
Valentino, however, has never forgotten to give credit to Giammetti, who had to be in the back of the horse forValentino. He said, “Giancarlo deserves to tell a bit more about himself. Living all his life next to me, he accepted a life that was reducing” He also admitted, “I have to say, Mr. Giammetti takes care of all of the parts that are not really pleasant. I was working with peace, and he provided this. He knew that I was not to be disturbed.”
Valentino’s Social Media Presence
As mentioned, Valentino doesn’t use the computer, fax, e-mail, or text messaging. TV is the only media he likes. It may not constitute any problem in Valentino’s early career. However, in today’s world, it is almost impossible to build a strong brand power without proper social media presence.
Valentino – perhaps Giammetti behind him – also understands the importance of social media presence, and owns Instagram and Twitter accounts for his eponymous brand “Maison Valentino”, each followed by 12.2M and 2.04M followers (as of April 2019). Given their effective use of hashtags, images, @ and compelling wordings, they seem to be managed by a professional digital marketing team.
How Valentino Will Be Remembered
As one of few ingenious fashion designers who has survived numerous fluctuations in the fashion industry for long decades and steadily stayed on the top, Valentino is and will continue to be remembered as an elegant fashion legend who makes the most beautiful dress for women. Every woman has a moment when they want to appear special and sensational, different from their ordinary days, and it is when Valentino comes to their minds. Valentino has got his place in every woman’s heart, thanks to his solid personal brand, which has been able to be built up with the help of his partner, Giancarlo Giammetti.
What We Can Learn
- Identify your goal clearly and narrow down your targets. Branding for everybody equals to branding for nobody.
- In order to have a long career life, it is important to be visionary so that you can be ready for possible changes in the future and effectively adjust to the next move.
- Unless you’re not a digital marketing expert, it is advisable to outsource social media management of your brand to a professional marketing team for better results.
- Everyone has weaknesses. Try to find a way to make up for them rather than incessantly hiding them. If you’re lucky, you may find your Mr. Giammetti!
- Make sure to give enough credit and show enough respect to your partner, especially if your partner is sitting in the back of the horse for you.
Brizzo is a dynamic and energetic investor, marketing strategist, musician and online reputation specialist. He is the Co-Founder of AICY Create, https://www.aicy-create.com/, a leading marketing agency based in China, with expertise in Personal Branding and China Digital Marketing.