At the opening of Valentino’s new boutique at one of Doha’s most prestigious malls which coincided with the “Forever Valentino” exhibition, nested in M7 at the heart of the Qatari capital and pays homage to its founder Valentino Garavani, The Kurator sat with the brand’s CEO Jacopo Venturini and explored his journey with the Maison, discussing about his vision and values for the brand both internationally and within the region.
How do Valentino’s values resonate with you and your career journey?
My love story with Valentino goes back in time, to when I started my career in a department store in Italy as a buyer, at La Rinascente in 1995, and since then I have always felt that Maison Valentino’s values have resonated with me and my personal journey. I’ve always felt that this is the one and only Italian Maison de Couture. I think that these two words, Maison and Couture have lots of semantic values also reflected in our strategy. Maison means intimacy, uniqueness, and inclusivity all at the same time, and Couture refers to the obsessive attention to detail, care, craftsmanship, enhancement of creativity and the intimate relation between the premier and the client. Maison and Couture define the world of values that establishes and permeates Valentino’s company culture. Creativity, human capital, and teamwork are at the center of attention since they are the main drivers of the brand’s evolution.
How far have you come in implementing your new vision and business?
Coming back for the third time as a CEO, in June 2020, I am finally able to - together with Maison’s Chairman Rachid Mohamed Rachid and Creative Director Pierpaolo Piccioli - apply the strategy that I’ve always thought was the right one for the brand.
Personally, I see this as a gift that life has given me. The starting point of our strategy and new vision was to position Valentino as the most established Italian Maison de Couture. In line with the goals of redefining the brand positioning, we decided to terminate two healthy businesses: phasing out RED Valentino to focus on a single label and then also becoming fur-free from 2022 and we are also angora and alpaca free. The brand opts for a business model that leverages creativity and mastery to support a new momentum. My objective, together with my team, for the next 3 years is to reach 80% retail and 20% wholesale. The aim is to increase retail and work within wholesale via selected partners to develop dedicated projects. So, I opted for a trickle-down effect through a well-defined and quite innovative strategy rooted in a client-centric and colleague-centric vision. In a world where human capital is at the epicentre of all the Maison’s activities, my responsibility is to create a more catered and mindful business model with a company culture based on sustainability and ethical values.
Tell us more about Valentino’s client-centric approach and how it contributes to the brand’s sustainable growth?
Another important element close to Couture is the personal relationship between the premier and the clients, it’s a very intimate relationship. This type of couture approach belongs to the company and to its DNA. At Valentino we put people at the center - a ‘People-Centric’ approach - this means client-centricity and colleague-centricity. We are currently working to implement client-centricity, starting from the point that colleague-centricity is propaedeutic for client-centricity. I strongly believe that company culture is fundamental to the company’s strategy. As a Maison de Couture, we grow, but for us it’s important to grow in a sustainable way with a solid company culture, I think this is the biggest responsibility for me as the CEO. The company culture is what makes it resilient, and it should be stronger than everybody else. We have been undergoing sustainable growth, a growth that is repeatable, ethical and responsible to, and for, our people.
One of the most important aspects of sustainability is the consideration of people and making the growth of the company sustainable. Investing in organic growth is key to long-term success. For me, leading with a purpose is one of our core business strategies with high people engagement: making a positive impact inside the company with our community and with everyone.
How do you integrate sustainability in the brand’s strategy and where does Valentino stand with this at the present?
Integrating and implementing sustainability across the board is a heartfelt strategic pillar at Valentino. A conscious-driven mindset and a giving-back approach are embedded into the DNA of Valentino. Sustainability is a path of continuous improvement, it is a duty but also an opportunity to always raise the standard for our clients and colleagues, which contributes to the success of our brand every day. Valentino recognises the urgency of acting on sustainability and is evolving on the topic, we are building upon a solid conscious -driven approach that lives with us and with our journey. Operating in a sustainable manner means creating value and developing ethics and sustainability under the same hat. We have taken some sustainable actions from different angles. In 2013 Valentino joined the Greenpeace Detox Solution Commitment in a mission to eliminate all dangerous chemicals from our supply chain and signed up on Zero Deforestation Commitment projects to help protect our life-giving waterways and rainforests. In terms of raw materials, we have become fur-free from 2022. We are also angora and alpaca free, eliminated from the SS22. Valentino won the PETA Fashion Awards in December 2021 as one of the pioneering brands working to make the fashion industry animal-free. And, in order to empower and recognize the value of our Valentino Community & territory, I’m glad to tell you also about giving-back mindset, rooted in our DNA with different initiatives, through an environmental and social approach territorially.
Where does Couture Clienteling reside in the Maison?
I’m obsessed with retail - from my arrival, in June 2020, one of my main focuses was the reorganisation of the store. Valentino has something magical inside - being the most established Italian Maison de Couture, everything resides in attention to detail, excellent savoir-faire, high craftsmanship, and personal relationships between the premier and clients. By putting the focus on customers, we also refer to the client experience. I deeply believe in introducing a Couture approach in the pre-and-post-selling ceremony. The Couture approach for Valentino is called Couture Clienteling, aimed to provide a unique client journey within the industry, taking care of the clients as the human beings they are. It’s a holistic approach to the client, creating an intimate relationship between the client and the client advisor. It is important to create a trustful relationship through values, creating empathy and a connection with the client generating a long-lasting relationship. We’ve inserted into the stores a strategic figure: the client advisor responsible for the creation, cultivation, and maintenance of the relationship with the client, putting them at the center in order to realize their dreams and always make them feel at home. The clienteling approach is also present online, on valentino.com, a place to discover and to be close to the Maison everywhere. We offer a personalized concierge service with a one-to-one and very personal approach, bespoke experiences and unique services.
You have strongly increased the brand’s focus on digital and e-commerce, how has this been developed?
During the pandemic, for Valentino, digital has been transformed with a human touch dimension using technology. What is important is that you realise that you can use digital but still always have a human touch approach. Therefore, we implemented customer-centricity and offered innovative couture-clienteling experiences. I decided, together with the teams, to introduce a new approach to the Maison from a branding perspective that is strongly connected with aspects of the entertainment industry. For example we launched Chez Maison Valentino, a digital immersive experience in the historic headquarters of the brand, with a two-dimensional facade of Palazzo Mignanelli in Rome.
During 2020, for example, In the world of poetry we launched a series of online in collaboration with poet and writer Rupi Kaur, In the music scene the brand went live on @maisonvalentino IG with online concerts with high-profile names such as Alicia Keys. We also launched ChezMaison Valentino, a digital immersive experience in the historic headquarters of the brand, with a two-dimensional facade of Palazzo Mignanelli in Rome.
The pandemic made us realise that fashion and entertainment companies have many things in common: having these hours dedicated to yourself. People want a moment of escapism in which to exchange common and shared values. This made us realise that even digitally, we can still have the human touch and that this is present inside the stores. What I think is that technology can make our life easier, but it’s important to maintain the human-touch approach, I don’t want to lose it in any way because this can make a difference.
Are there any special projects in the pipeline for the GCC and the UAE?
For us the Middle East is a very important market; it offers Valentino incredible opportunities for growth. The luxury market in the Middle East continues to expand, and we are investing in experiences and items catered to this luxury consumer mindset. In terms of exclusive products, we created dedicated collections for the market (WW Exclusive Middle East Capsule). We launched, also this year, a dedicated capsule to celebrate joy and lightness during the festivities called Valentino The Party Collection 2022.
We would like to strengthen our knowledge of this market to get to know the customers better and so to tailor-make a number of initiatives throughout all the possible levers of the product and communication. Our strategy includes investing in the region by opening new stores and planning important upgrades for the existing stores that include surface expansion as well as full renovations.
With these new venues, in the pipeline from 2022 to 2025, Valentino is strengthening its position in the Middle East. We will open, for one year, a one-of-a-kind boutique in the new Atlantis the Royal in January 2023 (UAE) presenting a full range of men’s and women’s ready-to-wear and accessories. The materials applied in the boutique are enriched with fine details specifically designed for Atlantis through a sophisticated attitude.
We are investing in the region and in the GCC in particular; we unveiled the new store concept in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in September 2022, we will open a new flagship store in Riyadh in July 2023 and evaluating a further expansion in the country to reach a potential number of 7 boutiques by 2026. We have also upgraded our existing store in Kuwait with refurbishment and new store concept deployment, the Bloomingdales corner in Kuwait 360 Mall. We opened a new boutique in Printemps in Doha, did a refurbishment of Mall of Qatar and recently opened a flagship store in Place Vendome. In Bahrain, we are planning a new boutique opening in Manama in March 2023.