Salvatore Ferragamo’s creative director Paul Andrew is leaving the business in the coming weeks, BoF has learned, as the Florence-based brand also shakes up its board of directors.
Andrew will exit after completing the Italian brand’s Pre-Spring 2022 collection in early May, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter. No successor is likely to be named upon Andrew’s departure, and the designer, the first to oversee all of the brand’s product categories, may not be replaced. Andrew is not leaving for another position.
Ferragamo declined to comment on the designer’s departure.
The move comes as family-owned Ferragamo is revamping its board after struggling to reverse years of losing market share to luxury’s biggest groups, where a more casual, fashion-forward approach has been driving growth.
Chairman Ferruccio Ferragamo will step down from his role at the brand, replaced by his brother Leonardo, according to proposals set to be voted during an April 22 meeting of the family’s holding company, Ferragamo Finanziaria. The brand will also add three independent board members, while executive vice chairman Michele Norsa (who rejoined the company last year) and chief executive Micaela Le Divelec Lemmi will remain in place, according to the holding company’s filing.
The shakeup follows Ferruccio Ferragamo’s move last year to hand over his executive powers to Norsa, the brand’s former chief executive. Donald Kohler, chief executive of the Americas and chief retail officer, also recently exited the business.
One of the few remaining independent luxury brands with global name recognition, storied shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo has long been viewed as a potential acquisition target for a strategic group or private investor looking to capitalise on growth in the fast-growing footwear category.
While the family previously ruled out a sale, the dramatic impact of the pandemic on independent brands and reports that the company was preparing to shake up its leadership have fuelled speculation that the Ferragamos have become more open to the idea of giving up or sharing control of the brand.
Sales dropped 33 percent to €916 million during 2020, resulting in the first year of losses on record since the company went public on the Milan stock exchange a decade ago. Losses before interest and taxes were €62 million last year, compared to a €150 million profit in 2019.
Salvatore Ferragamo was once the world’s most innovative shoemaker, associated with Hollywood stars like Audrey Hepburn while birthing major footwear trends like the wedge and the platform. After its founder’s death in 1960, his widow and children grew the company into a global luxury powerhouse with a conservative approach to branding and design that saw its Vara pumps and silk scarves become favourites of the country club set.
The company almost doubled sales in the six years to 2015, while net profit rose threefold. But the last few years have seen the business stagnate—sales fell in 2017 and 2018, before posting a slight recovery in 2019—as efforts to broaden the brand’s audience and rejuvenate its client base failed to gain traction.
Designer Andrew, once known for a namesake shoe line which he closed two years ago, joined the company in 2016 as creative director of women’s footwear. In 2019, at a time when more accessories experts were being promoted into top roles across the industry, he was promoted to lead all categories, including apparel.
While Andrew had some success with bringing editorial interest to the brand’s fashion shows, as well as introducing a few hit styles like the Studio bag, the brand has struggled to translate refreshed energy on the runway into strong merchandising or broader consumer interest. A failure to overhaul the brand’s image more globally, combined with difficulty recruiting talent to move to the company’s Florence base, appeared to stunt his efforts.
Factions within the family have at times held opposing views on what the future of Ferragamo—and their role in the company—should be, making it difficult to update its style, communications and strategy. A lack of modern management, with the family that owns more than 60 percent of the company often resisting bold changes, has put the brand at a disadvantage in a market that demands speed and flexibility.
The lackluster momentum in recent years has shed doubt on whether LVMH or Kering, the two major strategic groups looking for businesses with sales around $1 billion or more, would be interested in acquiring the brand.
The appointment of a new chairman, Leonardo, as well as three new independent members, could indicate a willingness to update their strategy. Marinella Soldi, a former media executive at Discovery, and Patrizia Giangualano, a consulting executive who held senior roles at CapGemini and PwC, are set to join the board as well as Frédéric Biousse, a former CEO of Sandro Maje Claudie Pierlot whose private equity start-up Experienced Capital backed brands including Jimmy Fairly, Balibaris and Soeur.
Giacomo “James” Ferragamo, who oversees product and hired Andrew, will return to the board after stepping down last year, while Giovanna, a daughter of founder Salvatore, is set to step down.