Close-up: Alessandra Facchinetti

Can Valentino's inexperienced young successor win over the doubters at Paris Fashion Week?
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The Independent Online

Rarely are fledgling fashion designers matched with the great fashion houses of Europe; new kids on the block usually pay their dues by designing under their own name or working for lesser mortals. So when it was announced in September that the legendary Italian designer Valentino was retiring, it was a shock to learn that his successor, Alessandra Facchinetti, was not just a relative newcomer, but a woman to boot.

A graduate of Milan's Istituto Marangoni fashion school, and after stints at Prada, Moncler and Gucci, Facchinetti becomes the only female in charge of a major haute couture house – and all at just 35. "There are many women in fashion I admire," she says, shrugging off her achievement. "From Miuccia Prada to Donatella Versace."

Facchinetti is showing nerves of steel ahead of her debut this Thursday at Paris Fashion Week. When Valentino retired, after 45 years in the business, he bowed out with a highly acclaimed show and a standing ovation from the fashion world. Facchinetti knows she has a lot to live up to. "It's a dream and an honour to follow in Valentino's footsteps," she says. "I have enormous admiration for his grand style. The first time I went to meet him in Rome it was the most exciting day of my life.

"Continuation and evolution are always important," she adds of her plans for fashion's most romatic label. "I will be inspired by Valentino's style, but also making my own additions."

Giving an idea of what is to come, Facchinetti showed a small, but well-received, pre-collection for Valentino in December. She is known for her form-fitting silhouettes in silk and satin, so perhaps we can expect a softer, more modern sexiness brought to one of the more conservative red-carpet labels.

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