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2009 June 24

Hello Again

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Carlos Souza Carlos Souza
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(NEW YORK) It's only been 18 months since Carlos Souza quietly departed Valentino, but it appears that the brand just can't afford to forge ahead without its former vice president of worldwide public relations. Now under the ownership of Permira, which bought the brand coinciding with Valentino Garavani's January 2008 retirement, Souza has been quietly hired by the brand to head up its public relations efforts in the United States. Souza's first project? The Couture 2010 show and subsequent celebration, taking place on July 8 in Paris.

Souza's relationship with Valentino began in the early 1970s, when he met Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti through friends in his native Brazil. As a 16-year-old student, he travelled to Milan to walk in the Valentino show, which catapulted Souza into a career that involved everything from a centerfold spread in Interview conceived by Andy Warhol to the editorship of the Italian edition of Harper's Bazaar. In the mid-1990s, Souza began working for Valentino full-time, managing the brand's communications out of New York. He is largely credited with growing the brand's A-list celebrity fan base, cultivating a devoted clientele, and producing the spectacular runway shows and parties that have translated the Valentino message onto the global stage.

Upon Garavani's retirement, Souza quickly took on new projects, including the Claro Rio Summer fashion week that was the talk of Rio last November--and not only because it drew Garavani, Giammetti, and Natalia Vodianova and her family to the Fasano hotel and swim shows at the Fort of Copacabana. Souza has also continued to develop his jewelry line, Most Wanted Design.

The Valentino brand has struggled to redefine itself in the wake of its founder's departure. Garavani's immediate successor Alessandra Faccinetti was dismissed immediately following her third collection. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, who spent a decade growing the accessories business alongside Garavani, were named creative directors.

The upcoming couture show will mark the duo's third runway show; previous efforts have been met with mostly unenthusiastic reviews. "In contrast to the scene around the show, the clothes produced absolutely no emotion. They were dead on arrival, starting with the first red coat," Cathy Horyn wrote of the January couture show. "...How do you get from the superb show [Valentino] did in Rome in July 2007 to this empty collection? Sure, the new designers kept the template, but something happens when a designer retires: the audience expects to see a new beginning. If I were the Permira guys, I’d be worried if all I heard was how fabulous and 'very Valentino' the show was. What is it going to look like next season and the one after that? It’s going to look exactly the same. Nothing is going to change. And that’s the kiss of death in fashion."

Insiders have been speculating for months about an imminent departure of Valentino Fashion Group CEO Stefano Sassi, which were barely quelled when he recently told reporters, "I'm staying where I am." Several sources have considered the Souza hire as an attempt to get Valentino back on track and dressing those celebrities who have strayed from the house following Garavani's departure. Souza will work alongside HL Group, which will serve as the brand's press office.

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