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Salvatore Ferragamo Bets on Buzzy Maximilian Davis as Creative Director

The appointment is the first big move by new chief executive Marco Gobbetti, who aims to re-energise the Florentine house.
Maximilian Davis.
Maximilian Davis has been appointed creative director of Salvatore Ferragamo. (Lee Whittaker.)

Key insights

  • Salvatore Ferragamo has named 26-year-old Maximilian Davis its new creative director
  • The appointment is the first big move by ex-Burberry chief Marco Gobbetti, who joined Ferragamo in January and aims to re-energise the label
  • “It is highly appropriate for Ferragamo to try to bring the brand in line with the current spirit of the times,” said Bernstein analyst Luca Solca

Salvatore Ferragamo has hired emerging British-West Indian designer Maximilian Davis to be its new creative director, succeeding Paul Andrew, who exited the Florentine label last March as part of a major shakeup that included the stepping down of board chairman Ferruccio Ferragamo. The appointment is the first big move made by new chief executive Marco Gobbetti, who joined the company from Burberry in January.

The 26-year-old Davis, who is relatively inexperienced but one of London’s buzziest emerging talents, will join Ferragamo on March 16. The designer was shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH Prize this year, but pulled out of the competition earlier this month.

At Ferragamo, Davis has his work cut out for him. The label was once the world’s most innovative shoemaker, associated with Old Hollywood stars like Audrey Hepburn and credited with birthing major footwear trends like the wedge and the platform. But Ferragamo grew dusty long ago, and after years of lacklustre sales, the coronavirus pandemic plunged the brand into the red.

Last week, the house announced it had returned to profitability, with 2021 earnings before interests and taxes reaching €143 million ($156 million). Sales, however, still lagged pre-pandemic levels at €1.14 billion, in sharp contrast to industry leaders like LVMH and Hermès, which saw double-digit growth above pre-pandemic levels last year.

Gobbetti — whose resume includes CEO roles at Givenchy and Celine, where he worked to reinvigorate those brands with designers Riccardo Tisci and Phoebe Philo, respectively — has been hired to re-energise Ferragamo, but the challenge is “monumental,” said Bernstein analyst Luca Solca.

While the newly installed chief executive has yet to outline a detailed strategy, he said that he planned to appoint a new creative director to bring “energy and newness” to the product range during a call with investors last week.

“This brand has enormous potential. We are quite excited by the possibilities. We have a framework and a platform that allow us to be ambitious,” said Gobbetti. “We think there is a significant potential to create a lot of interest and a lot of energy around the brand. Product offer is a key element in that.”

Manchester-bred Davis is known for his technical skill and a point of view that draws on his British-West Indian heritage (his father’s family is Jamaican and his mother’s family is from Trinidad), blending sex and sophistication for a vibrant take on modern elegance. His first collection, which debuted last year, paid homage to his grandmother, inspired by Trinidad and Tobago’s annual carnival.

“The clarity of his vision together with the level of execution and his powerful aesthetic make him one of the most brilliant talents of his generation,” said Gobbetti. “His work is defined by elegance, refined sensuality, and constant commitment to quality.”

“Ferragamo represents a dedication to timeless elegance and sophistication that I find incredibly inspiring,” said Davis. “I’m looking forward to articulating my vision, elevated by the codes of Italian craftsmanship, quality and innovation.”

After graduating from the London College of Fashion in 2017, Davis worked with a number of London’s most exciting young labels — Grace Wales Bonner, Mowalola, Supriya Lele and Asai — before striking out on his own. He started his namesake brand in 2019, selling printed T-shirts that helped him raise cash to fund ready-to-wear collections and landing a spot on the London Fashion Week schedule as part of Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East incubator. The label is stocked by top retailers like Dover Street Market, Net-a-Porter and Ssense. Rihanna and A$AP Rocky have worn his designs.

“I think it is highly appropriate for Ferragamo to move forward with its aesthetics and try and bring the brand in line with the current spirit of the times,” said Solca. “Each brand has to find a synthesis between its DNA and modernity — mixing heritage and innovation. This process has stalled at Ferragamo for a long time; here is a new chance to get it going.”

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