Valentino has made a stunning turnaround with boutique sales up 38 per cent and wholesale sales up 50 per cent compared with the same period last year. The company reported a net loss of $22.2m in 1999.

Italy's Holding di Partecipazioni (HdP), the holding company that owns Valentino, announced earlier this year that it planned to invest $70m in the struggling company over a three-year period. "We think it is important to build the brand name Valentino," says Fabio Giombini, who runs the Valentino business for HdP. "Not just the person, but the brand name, so that it becomes like Chanel and Dior."

A spokeswoman attributed wholesale increases in the United States to increased buying from existing accounts (which include Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue) and to new accounts drawn from independent specialty stores. "The increases have been driven by the women's business, while the men's business remains
steady," she said. "

Valentino has also successfully launched a lower-priced diffusion line for men and women, called Valentino Roma, for spring 2001. The range is aimed at a younger, more trendy market, and has been designed by two new young designers under Valentino's supervision. Two more designers came from Fendi to design a line of trendy accessories.

HdP will also have cut off around 40 licensing deals by the end of the year in an attempt to boost the Valentino brand image.