British-born Surridge, whose appointment is effective immediately, will have creative responsibility for all of the group’s brands. He was most recently a creative consultant to Acne Studios, and was creative director of Z Zegna from 2011 to 2014 . The Central Saint Martins-trained designer also worked under Calvin Klein in the '90s, with Christopher Bailey at Burberry, and at Jil Sander under Raf Simons — a role in which he crossed paths with Gian Giacomo Ferraris, now CEO of Roberto Cavalli.
Speaking of the appointment ahead of today's announcement, Ferraris said he was looking for a specific skill set. "We met a lot of candidates, a lot of them showed great creative potential, which made the decision not easy, but the [reason] we selected Paul is that next to his distinctive creative quality, he show a strong interest in further developing the code of the house," he told BoF.
"On top of this, he is a great team leader, and has a great sensibility for digital communication, and he can really interpret and play a role in the future DNA of Roberto Cavalli. So this is instinctively what makes me enthusiastic about this decision."
“I am honoured and proud to carry forward the legacy of this extraordinary Italian house," said Surridge in a statement. "This is a unique opportunity to contribute a new chapter to the Roberto Cavalli universe, which positively celebrates the beauty, sensuality and power of women. It is my intention to show the passion I share for the codes and vision on which Roberto Cavalli built his brand while celebrating the excellence of Italian craftsmanship."
Ferraris acknowledged that Surridge was something of a dark horse candidate for the role. "I have to say the first time we explored the name of Paul Surridge, it was a surprise," he said. "Now everybody knows that it was a logical decision; it was a natural decision. Having met Paul— with his enthusiastic approach and his creative, modern vision— we think that he’s the perfect person to work with us to make our Italian fashion brand famous and successful in the next year."
In October last year, Ferraris initiated a company-wide reorganisation that coincided with the exit of creative director Peter Dundas. The reorganisation resulted in the closure of Roberto Cavalli’s Milan offices, moving all operations to Florence, as well as the elimination of 200 of its 672 positions. Production, logistics and retail network were also to be rationalised, with an ultimate goal of returning the company to operating profitability in 2018.
“In this environment, only iconic brands with a coherent business model and an efficient organisation can survive,” said Ferraris in a statement at the time. “I believe the Cavalli brand has what it takes to succeed. But the reality is that the company’s costs must be in line with its revenues and that is the task we now have to embark upon.”
The lag between Dundas's exit and Surridge's arrival was an intentional one, said Ferraris. "I made sure that the creative director would not enter until the restructure was behind us. It's fundamental that the restructuring for him is not a problem. It will be a green field for him and the perfect time to start at such an iconic international brand."
Surridge's first season will be the women's Spring/Summer 2018 collection, which will show in Milan in September.