“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” 27-year-old Maximilian Davis admitted ahead of his debut show for Ferragamo. He remembered his first encounter with the Florentine house before the summer. He continued, “But as soon as I arrived I felt an energy that was very supportive. And the team and family were thrilled to have taken a new direction: I think everyone has been waiting for this fresh start.”
Davis’ role under veteran 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-conscious customers to this one once revolutionary but newer company run conservative house.
The significant big gesture Part of Davis’ fresh start was doing away with the “Salvatore”, moving from an italic typeface to something much more in keeping with the contemporary design consensus, and claiming a new corporate colour: a particular shade of arresting red. This was unmistakable, tinted in the damp, rain-spattered sand that covered the floor of the courtyard and painted on the boards that adorned the arcades of this 17th-century Milan seminary. The place is currently being converted into a hotel by the Ferragamo family’s Lungarno group, so it should prove a practical exhibition venue for at least a season or two. The red represented Davis’ own (now on hold) eponymous label, where it reflected the Trinidad and Tobago flag and heritage. It also speaks to Ferragamo’s heritage, one of the many famous shoes from the archive is a beaded red pump the founder made for Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s.
So much for the codes: what about the clothes? Davis said, “I develop new models and introduce new silhouettes for the brand and try to understand what the younger consumer needs to be successful.” There was a strong play with color from head to toe in sport-inspired bodysuits and technical ones Field jackets and trousers for men. An all-red look, five-pocket pants and a turtleneck were beaded in homage to Monroe’s pumps.
Inspired by the founder’s early incarnation as a Hollywood shoemaker, Davis worked the sunset and sunrise with bleed print degradé fabrics, themselves inspired by artist Rachel Harrison’s fabrics Sunset series. This detail blended well with the use of heat-reactive, color-sensitive fabrics ranging from rust to apricot in simple cuts.
Tailoring was presented in chunky, stocky shapes given twist and movement with the addition of sash detail or the removal of sleeves. It was often realized in a finely finished double-bonded crepe fabric. There was a “playful and slightly perverted energy,” Davis suggested in short leather and suede shorts. For accessories, the hardware of the house of Gancini was reflected in the heel of a pretty new strappy sandal and the bracelet-like hardware of a small clutch. It was also traced in the neckline of a royal anthracite evening dress.
Davis spoke of “reviving” Ferragamo. The applause that greeted this first installment of his tenure suggested he was already making new connections in this important search for currency.