Paul Andrew, the newly installed creative director of Salvatore Ferragamo, came out swinging. “Men’s fashion today, I think it’s in a really atrocious state, quite frankly,” he said. “You go into any so-called luxury fashion house and menswear is predominantly about hoodies and sweatpants and tank tops and T-shirts with logos all over them. There’s no difference between that and what the high street brands are doing. I don’t really find that luxurious.” Shots fired.
We were in the Florence Chamber of Commerce building, which was mercifully air-conditioned—outside, oppressive Tuscan humidity has descended upon the opening day of Pitti Uomo. But the heat, as it were, was on: it was about seven hours from Andrew’s first menswear show as creative director, and he was contemplating model Kiki Willems as she walked across the marble floor in a pair of white cutout ankle boots and a matching embroidered lace dress. (Andrew, who was promoted from head of women’s ready-to-wear and footwear six months ago, couldn’t resist sprinkling a few women’s looks into the show.) His vision of what true luxury is starts here.
Andrew didn’t say who these “luxury” competitors are, but it’s clear who he’s talking about: the Guccis and Balenciagas of the world, whose sales have skyrocketed under designers who haven’t been afraid to pour jet fuel on their respective house’s codes—which means, yes, they have designed a few heavily-branded hoodies. “My approach to men’s fashion is very different,” Andrew said, gesturing at the model board, where there’s not a pair of jeans or sweats to be found among the Talented Mr. Ripley-esque palette. There’s a T-shirt—and it’s made of Nappa leather. The faces on the board skew older than we’ve come to expect, too, Willems notwithstanding. Legendary art director Peter Saville (he of Joy Division’s cover art and international fashion houses’ new logos) was set for his runway debut, as was Michi Berger-Sandhofer, a deputy chairman at Sotheby’s and friend of Andrew’s.
Andrew’s mandate as creative director is not just to modernize the existing Ferragamo customer—it’s to bring in a new generation. You know, the one that’s copping hoodies like there’s a cotton shortage. But talk is just talk. So later that night, in the Piazza della Signoria (you know, the square in Florence), Andrew really came out swinging: The opening look featured that Nappa tee with a creamy pair of workwear-inspired belted cargo pants in a tailoring wool-cotton fabric. “Once you’ve worn those sort of sport-inspired clothes, it’s hard to go back to tailored fitted garments, and I don’t necessarily see that coming back in a strong way,” Andrew had noted before the show. (While wearing, I may add, beat-up black Carharrts.)
Workwear, he says, is a way to reach that younger generation—a strategy that felt even more promising when those pants emerged on the runway. They looked of a quality that will more than justify the inevitably high price tag high—and, more importantly, with an effortless slouch, they looked utterly cool. It’s not really workwear, but it’s not what you think of when you think “Ferragamo trouser,” either. Plus, the model was wearing one of a series of sunglasses reminiscent of Oakley blades. The setting was a nod to Ferragamo’s Florentine heritage (it is the first time—and last, apparently—a brand has been able to hold a show in the Piazza della Signoria), but the shades were a sign that Andrew is looking forward.