Emanuel UNGARO (French, born 1933)

Widely accepted to be the last grand couturier, Emanuel Ungaro retired from fashion in 2005 - but his company continues to dominate fashion headlines today. Emanuel Ungaro was born in 1933 in Aix-en-Provence in France. His Italian father, who fled the Fascist uprising in the Thirties, was a tailor and ensured the young Emanuel's first toy was a sewing machine. Aged 23, the budding designer moved to Paris and two years later in 1958 began as an assistant to Cristobal Balenciaga. In 1965 he set up his own couture house and refused to show evening dresses - a couture staple - at his debut show, declaring: "They are not my style. I am a man of this age and I will design for women of this age." He became known for his flamboyant use of pattern and elegant draping, creating pieces with an emphasis on the comfortable and flattering encasement of the female form. Ungaro quickly garnered a high profile celebrity following, including Jacqueline Kennedy and Catherine Deneuve, and the business developed healthily until the early Nineties. The decade of grunge saw Ungaro's colourful ruffles and exuberant palette replaced by understated tailoring at the height of fashion and the company began to flounder. In 1996, Ungaro sold a majority stake of his business to Salvatore Ferragamo SpA with the understanding that the Italian label would develop a lucrative handbag and shoe division to support the loss-making couture business. In 1998, Ungaro lured Giambattista Valli from his position as creative director at Krizia and began a lengthy handover of the creative elements of his empire. In 2000, Ungaro still had 200 couture customers worldwide, 60 of whom ordered every season. Valli and Ungaro worked side-by-side until 2004 when - reportedly following disagreements not with Ungaro but with his wife Laura, the company's global communications director, Valli left the label. Following his Ungaro departure, Valli turned down the creative director's role at Valentino when the In 2005, Ungaro sold the label to businessman Asim Abdullah for $84 million and retired from the fashion business.