#SuzyMFW: Answering The Succession Question
Considering that the roots of the current big names of Milan fashion were planted – or already flowering – 30 years ago, it is not surprising that the ongoing story is about the future. I feel that the succession question is short of answers for several reasons: the desire to keep things in the family; the problem of finding fresh designers with a global attitude – but also with an understanding of the Italian soul. Or indeed its shoe sole – since so many fashion houses are built on leather goods and expanded from that into clothing.
The problem is so acute – and so profound – that even Pucci, a world-famous historic brand owned by LVMH, is still unable to find an appropriate designer after two years.
How are the brands in search of a reboot doing: flourishing, floating or failing?
Salvatore Ferragamo: Shoe business
There is something smart about pushing to the fore Paul Andrew, already a noted shoe designer before he joined Ferragamo. Although he shared a bow with his clothing design partner Guillaume Meilland, Andrew’s words explained how the origins of the show defined it.
“It really began with this archival wedge from Salvatore – everything I do with Ferragamo starts with the shoe and this patchwork rainbow inspired the colour palette,” the designer said, referring to the famous wedge shoe made by the resourceful Salvatore when the normal materials were unavailable during the war.
“And you see a whole series of patchwork garments also. So that shoe sure inspired a lot. And then the idea that it was such an individual standout shoe, if you think that it was designed in 1942. Now, I have tried to combine technology and craftsmanship in the collection and to think what Salvatore would be doing today.
The colours were certainly striking – such as the light shade of arsenic green for a soft sweater with a fringed skirt wrapped like a blanket. There were more intense shades of purple and poppy red for men, including a lilac sweater and wine velvet trousers alongside a small red pouch. On the women’s side, there was a mix of a pink wool coat over an orange leather top and trousers.
How were the shoes? Boots patterned with ostrich competed with flat shoes with the suede cut away like sandals, while a shoe with an upended triangular heel looked back to the 1940s.
With new CEO Micaela le Divelec Lemmi, it looks like Ferragamo is managing and imagining its future. But there is no question of forgetting the past. The mayor of Florence announced during Pitti Uomo last month that a square in the city’s historic centre will be named for Salvatore Ferragamo and his wife Wanda who ran the company after his death in 1960 and remained a strong head of the family until she passed away last year.
Roberto Cavalli: Trying for a good fit
The difference between northern and southern Europe is stronger than many people understand. British creative director Paul Surridge took over at Roberto Cavalli with a clear vision: sportswear elements for both sexes.
What seems to elude him is any real understanding of the hot-blooded look that the original Calvalli founded.
However, the British designer made an unexpected leap from those spare, sporty looks he had previously shown on the runway to something colourfully patterned and sexually inviting – that is, if you think that a short skater skirt revealing flesh above thigh-high stiletto-heeled boots is a step forward for a modern woman.
It seems churlish to criticise Surridge for doing what it looked like he had been ordered or encouraged to do: send out bright colours like the mustard-gold that is so fashionable for Autumn/Winter 2019 or patterns that became waves of colour with graphic movement.
For those who don’t want mini skirts, there were draped dresses pleated to sway over the knees – while male models looked more at ease wearing colourful tailored suits.
The real problem at Cavalli is not whether Surridge is suited to the job, but rather that the essence of the original Roberto Cavalli – whose fine artistic skills were laced with a sexualising approach to women – simply isn’t in fashion today.
If Cavalli the brand wants to continue to be a worldwide offering, there has to be some hard thinking about women in 2020 and beyond – and how they should be represented beside the male wardrobe.
Marni: New broom
The legacy of Marni is the quirky, original look of clothes in offbeat colours and textural fabrics, as shown for two decades by Consuelo Castiglioni.
When new owners bought control of the family company, Consuelo was out.
The new broom concept is a normal reaction to a takeover and the question is how successfully the brand is now being steered towards a younger, more modern woman with a different approach.
The collection sent out by Francesco Risso was dramatic to a fault, with the main colour blood orange. Then there were satin dresses overlaid with metal chains and panels linked with silvered rings and studs. The result seemed much closer to Alexander McQueen than to the previous Marni look which was dedicated to nature with a spirit of bird song and the opposite of this tough, urban sophistication.
This may be the right moment to change course at Marni. But what about those passionate for the work of the previous designer? What is the strategy behind a destructive movement. Is it to get attention? To open a new chapter? Presumably, making more money is one of the goals.
The Marni show was not bad. Just very different. Ultimately what is needed in the case of all designers taking over an established brand is a mix of fresh thought – but presented with respect.
As they say, ‘Rome was not built in a day’ and brands trying to reassess their situation need both intelligent direction and time.