You keep seeing these “Valentino” bags at off-price outlets, Saks Off 5th, Nordstrom Rack, LastCall by Neiman Marcus or Century 21. They bear the Valentino logo and retail for (actually, you never see them selling at retail) somewhere around 60%-70% off $1,000. Then when you look closer, you start to notice “Mario Valentino” somewhat fine printed at the bottom of a tag or in the interior plaque which states “Products Made in Italy by Yarch Capital under license of Mario Valentino S.p.A.”.
Is Mario Valentino, Valentino? Is it a copycat of Valentino Garavani? Consumer confusions between Mario Valentino and Valentino Garavani popped in my inbox regularly and could be traced back 40 years ago that in 1979, Valentino Garavani and Mario Valentino had to “enter into a co-existence agreement” to set boundaries on logo placement and Valentino Garavani has recently took Mario Valentino to court, according to The Fashion Law, for breaching such agreement.
I comb through the timelines of the two Valentinos to have a more in-depth look at how these two brands evolved in historical context, followed by a brief review of Mario Valentino products including tips on differentiating it from Valentino Garavani, in the hope that I could help you make more informed purchasing decisions.
As you can see now Mario Valentino is a legit brand and it had some highlights in the 1970s and 1980s by outsourcing design to some of the most prominent designers at the time such as Lagerfeld (freelancing while studying art history), Armani and Versace (both designing prolifically while building their own houses), but ultimately it is one of those local European brands that has never achieved true international influence.
The reason you are seeing it so frequently now is because Yarch Capital is massively producing licensed bags targeting US and Canadian markets. Mario Valentino is just a host and Yarch Capital the parasite. I have no good words for Yarch Capital because it does not bother to conceal its tactic to copy and confuse. Its products look like the outcome of AI replacing human designers. Yarch Capital not only banks on the Valentino confusion, it has imitated almost every IT bag you could think of in the market now.
I would say the licensed Mario Valentino bags are close to junk, particularly insulting to the designers of the bags it imitates. If anything, vintage Mario Valentino might be more interesting as the brand itself is rooted in quality leather goods. Below is a close-up of Mario Valentino tags for the past 40 decades and differentiating it from Valentino Garavani should be easy: A Valentino Garavani bag will never say “Mario” while a Mario Valentino bag will always say “Mario”, no matter how it is downplayed, in this case, the 2010s version.
This keeps me think a lot, from how the creative career of designers and artists are often short lived to how Yarch Capital could so recklessly rip off designs. The reason might be simple - it works. People do buy these knocked-off designs. Information has never been so accessible yet consumers are less discerning.
To conclude, I’d like to use Mario Valentino’s own words in an interview given to WWD in 1971 and ironically, they are so relevant to what’s happening to fashion today.
“Today people have completely lost the taste of being elegant. They have discovered how to be ‘degage’. Not to care a damn about anybody or anything is today’s biggest luxury. People have discovered that fashion is meaningless, not serious…Till the New Look of Dior there was an evolution in the fashion which was reflecting life and it was always a way of expression. After the New Look there was nothing new and designers turned to copying ‘periods’. ….High fashion stands there as a big school of elegance. But what does it mean if it is like putting a precious cloak on a pony?”
Mario Valentino Dead At 63, WWD ; New York Vol. 161, Iss. 23, (Feb 1, 1991): 16.
Grassi, THE SHOEMAKER: "Today fashion is for fun," says Mario Valentino, Italy's top shoe designer, Women’s Wear Daily ; New York Vol. 123, Iss. 45, (Sep 2, 1971): 8.
Milan Advance: Mario Valentino, WWD ; New York Vol. 14, Iss. 43, (Mar 2, 1984): 1.
The Stars: Vogue's Report on the 12 Top Designers in the European Ready-to-Wear, Vogue; New York Vol. 159, Iss. 4, (Feb 15, 1972).
Vogue UK; https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/valentino-biography
Advertisement (Mario Valentino), WWD ; New York Vol. 132, Iss. 94, (May 13, 1976): 32.