#SuzyMFW: That Old Succession Question
Ferragamo: From the feet up
Backstage at Ferragamo, Paul Andrew had a mood board that ignited the clothing collection he designed for the first time. This was for the Autumn/Winter 2018 show, which now dressed the models from toe to top – extending his previous, and successful, role to rev up a house that was founded as ‘shoe maker to the stars’.
It was a smart idea for Andrew to take a look back to the early Salvatore years from the 1930s onward, using Hollywood stars such as Katharine Hepburn and Rita Hayworth as inspiration. He added the Duchess of Devonshire – perhaps in honour of his own British origins.
“I am obsessed with the series The Crown – that was the starting point of the collection,” said the designer, referring to the Netflix royal story.
The ghostly presence of past women of character was felt in bold coats that might have come right out of a stately English castle, a steamer to America – or a film version of either. At their best, these generously cut pieces looked like something appropriate for today, while the menswear designed by Guillaume Meilland was stylish and sharp.
Andrew scored strongly in colour, using the same painterly shades that appeared on folded paper inside the invitation and on the dividing walls of the presentation space. The designer got the shoes spot on, from the daffodil-yellow ostrich-leather boots that opened the show to the olive-green ones or another pair with the gilded square heel that Andrew created based on an archival style.
Ferragamo was – and is – known as a giant of shoes. Now that Andrew has brought them up to date over the last two years, he has created a post-millennium vision of what the founder did and which the current generation has been able to understand. The brand’s problem has been its inability to follow Gucci or Prada into producing clothes as definitive as the footwear and handbags. Putting both genders together on the runway proved that Andrew understood the current melding of female with male. And if the show had been cut by half, it would have looked more dynamic.
But it is a big ask to turn a footwear creator into a fashion designer in a single show. Andrew has the knowledge, the modern attitude – and certainly an appreciation of workmanship and colour – to give Ferragamo, in due time, a wider reach.
Paul Surridge rekindles the Roberto Cavalli flame
The first whizz-bang look at the Roberto Cavalli collection was a leopard-print jacket over a short curvy dress that clung to the thighs. It proved – as much as ankle-length or mid-calf coats for both sexes – that designer Paul Surridge is a great tailor.
But finding the elements of the original, but now retired designer, that will work in a post-Weinstein world is more of a challenge. The previous plush fur coats in painterly colours that were stock items would be questionable today, even if these Milan shows have not yet been heckled and booed by angry anti-fur demonstrators, as in other cities.
But most of all, the out-there sexiness of Italy’s Berlusconi years, when Cavalli thrived, is being challenged across the world. Women hitting their stride in high boots leaving a fleshy gap at the sides does not seem a good fit with the current mood. A dress with its fabric gouged out to reveal the navel and thighs seemed even less appropriate for Autumn/Winter 2018.
Yet Surridge has one big advantage: he is a powerful tailor. That may have been more obvious in the men’s outfits in the collection, but the confident rigour of those masculine lines was adopted also for a women’s cropped leather jacket or a camel coat that wrapped the body above a bias-cut skirt to create a wavy hemline. All this outerwear had the confident dash of the original Cavalli spirit, with a purposeful, modern vision.
The succession question is such a major subject in the current fashion world, with houses from New York to Paris to here in Milan searching for an answer. This new Cavalli collection could perhaps have been presented in a way that focused on Surridge’s tailoring talent – for example an opening of 10 perfectly made suits for both sexes. But the cruel truth is this: Roberto Cavalli’s vision, powerful as it once was, is not a good fit with attitudes of and to women in these times. The current designer needs to take a deep breath and think about a change, perhaps in the style of presentation as much as content, to make the brand seem relevant to now.