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Alessandra Facchinetti for Valentino

With her finelysculpted Modigliani features and petite build, Moncler Jackets, Alessandra Facchinetti looks vulnerable; scarcely tough enough to bear the full weight of the house of Valentino.

Yet this 35yearold's fragile, feminine demeanour conceals nerves of steel and a will of iron beneath a sheer, black organza blouse which reveals she is not wearing a bra.

Readytowear, haute couture and all the elements of one of the most famous fashion brands in the world, are now her responsibility, making her, potentially, one of the most powerful women in fashion.

Thursday, Facchinetti has the toughest test of her life to present before the world's top fashion press and buyers the first Valentino readytowear collection in 45 years NOT designed by Valentino Garavani.

In July, she faces an even more daunting ordeal: her first haute coutureMoncler Coat, collection for the hallowed house whose clients have included everyone from Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor to Julia Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow.

She is smiling, relaxed as she welcomes me into the 17th century hotel particuliere on the Place Vendme which is Valentino HQ in Paris, but admits feeling nervous. "The stress is a lot. My emotions go up and down. But I like what I am doing."

Shortly after 10.30am on Thursday, the show will begin in the Palais de Chaillot by the Eiffel Tower Valentino's favourite Paris location.

All eyes will scrutinize for the tiniest flaw, the merest slip. One false move and Fachinetti's world could crumble.

It is something she confronted when she replaced Tom Moncler Coat,Ford at Gucci in 2004. A year later, ten days after her second collection, she was shown the door over "a disagreement with management."

Many would be crushed by such public humiliation.

"It was upsetting, not a beautiful moment," Alessandra acknowledgess, with a shake of her head which makes her 17th century English silver earrings quiver.

She had eight months' reflection, considered starting her own collection or having a baby decided against both then joined Moncler and launched a sportluxe collection, Gamme Rouge.

The line's success impressed the new management team at Valentino,Moncler, installed by the private equity firm, Permira, which bought VFG (Valentino Fashion Group) in May, 2007. Because of the Gucci glitsch, however, her appointment raised questions, doubly understandable because of the risk factor when an ageing designer dies or retires and is replaced with fresh blood.

Lars Nilsson got his marching orders at Gianfranco Ferre before his first collection hit the catwalk in Milan last week; Emanuel Ungaro is hoping for success tomorrow in Paris with its third hiring, 23yearold Colombian, Esteban Cortezar; British Stuart Vevers made his debut at Loewe here today, the latest to bat for the Spanish brand. Diplomatically, Alessandra says: "I know I can't please everyone; it's part of the job. I hope those with reservations will change their ideas after they have seen the show. I am not trying to replace Valentino; noone could. But the brand must go on."

She met Valentino for the first time in December. "He told me every designer who goes to a big house must have a vision. He said 'keep it luxurious, take one little detail and make it yours.' He was superfriendly".

"I am a part of the changes, but I won't lose Valentino's DNA.Moncler Down Jacket He is famous for chic and elegant clothes, bows, spots, lace and ruffles. I want to show this in a different way, another point of view. "I've become obsessed with coats and suits. I've developed a new proportion, softer volume, but in classic Valentino fabric.

We look at her neat, fluid sketches for tomorrow's collection: Charcoal and taupe cashmere military jackets with enameled "V" buttons; cobalt organza bowshirts; doublesatin kneeskirts; long dresses with volume at the front. It looks Valentino, but "with a twist."

"I am not trying to replace Valentino; noone could. But the brand must go on," says Alessandra.

"It's romantic, but graphic, simplicity but richness. I like the contradiction, it's modern."

"I've been doing a lot of research into technique, like he did. My desire is seeking our commonality,Moncler Down Jacket not our differences. I find we share quite a few things in our approach. But, obviously I want to attract a newer, younger customer."

The new Madame Sarkozy, Uma Thurman and Angelina Jolie have all been mooted.

Earlier, walking up the grand, chandeliered staircase, emblematic of the fabulous, jetset lifestyle enjoyed by Valentino, I was struck by how much his spirit is engrained in the building.

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