“I was not sure what to expect,” confessed 27-year-old Maximilian Davis before his debut show for Ferragamo. He was recalling his first encounter with the Florentine house back before the summer. He continued: “But as soon as I arrived I felt an energy that was very supportive. And the team and the family have been excited to have a new direction: I think everyone has been waiting for this new beginning.”
Davis’s brief under seasoned CEO Marco Gobbetti, whose track record of transformation includes working with Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy and Phoebe Philo at Celine, is to do what those designers once did: bring a new generation of fashion-forward customers to this once revolutionary but lately conservative house.
The signifying grande geste of Davis’s new beginning included dropping the “Salvatore,” switching from a cursive font to something much more in line with contemporary design consensus, and laying claim to a new house color: a specific tone of arresting red. This was unmissable, dyed into the damp, rain-spattered sand that floored the courtyard and painted on the boards that backdropped the arcaded arches of this 17th-century Milanese seminary venue. The spot is currently being transformed into a hotel by the Ferragamo family’s Lungarno group, so it should prove a handy show space for at least a season or two. The red represented Davis’s own (now on hold) eponymous label, where it had echoed the flag of Trinidad and Tobago and his heritage. It also speaks to the heritage of Ferragamo, one of whose many famous archival shoes is a beaded red pump made for Marilyn Monroe by the founder in the 1950s.
So much for the codes: How about the clothes? Said Davis, “I’m developing new fabrications and introducing new silhouettes to the brand, and trying to understand what the younger client needs to make it a success.” There was a strong play for top-to-toe color in athletic-inspired bodysuits and technical field jackets and pants for men. One full look in red, a five-pocket pant and turtleneck, was beaded in homage to Monroe’s pumps.
Inspired by the founder’s early incarnation as shoemaker to Hollywood, Davis riffed on sunset and sunrise via dégradé, bleeding-print fabrics that were themselves inspired by artist Rachel Harrison’s Sunset Series. This detail bled nicely into the use of rust-to-apricot heat-reactive, color-sensitive fabrics in straightforward cuts.
Tailoring was presented in chunky, stolid shapes given twist and movement through the addition of sash details or the removal of sleeves. It was often realized in a delicately finished double-bonded crepe. There was a “playful and slightly perverse energy,” Davis suggested, in leather and suede short shorts. Accessory-wise, the house Gancini hardware was reflected in the heel of a handsome new strappy sandal and the bracelet-like hardware of a small clutch bag. It was also traced in the neckline of a regal charcoal evening dress.
Davis spoke of “reenergizing” Ferragamo. The applause that greeted this first installment of his tenure suggested he is already making fresh connections in that vital search for currency.