By  on September 19, 2008

MILAN — The analogy between the design approach Roberto Rimondi and Tommaso Aquilano take with their own line, recently renamed from 6267 to Aquilano & Rimondi, and the one used for their first Gianfranco Ferré collection starts with a blender.

The designers often compare the setting of the mood for each new season to feeding ideas into a mixer. So, not surprisingly, it was archival material that filled the blender for their 36-look Ferré debut on Sept. 21.

“It took us a while to decide whether we wanted to take this job,” admitted Aquilano. “We asked ourselves many questions. You know, whether we were capable of interpreting the designer, how difficult it could be, if we were predisposed.”

Their insecurities and hesitancies evaporated on their first visit to the archives.

“It was, wow,” mused Rimondi. “The amount of clothes, sketches, fabrics and accessories that Ferré kept was overwhelming, but even more impressive was how everything was maniacally classified and ordered.”

The visit was an enlightening one that helped forge a sense of continuity for the brand, since the two designers are well aware of the pressure they’re under to steer the storied house back to the growth path. Problems at the IT Holding-owned Ferré started with the designer’s death in June 2007, and grew worse when Lars Nilsson was ousted as the designer in February after only four months into the job. The fall collection was patched together at the last minute by a design team.

“Seeing the bulk of his work made us understand his train of thought because Ferré wasn’t just a designer, but someone who created a style,” said Rimondi. “It’s a different concept — one that impressed us.”

Still, they didn’t dwell on the past too much. Whether it’s reinterpreting such iconic Ferré codes as the white shirt and architectural constructions or shunning others, such as color and ethnic-cum-tribal references, the two want their vision to shine through.

The ubiquitous white shirt, which is to Ferré what red is to Valentino, will grace the runway and was a key seller in the pre-spring collection. The selection ranges from ubersimple to superdecorated, with colored versions.

On a more general note, structure is key to many silhouettes, with an emphasis on razor-sharp and sculptured tailoring. Contrasts are key, such as slim and voluminous, overly decorated elements with crystals and costume jewelry tempered by unfussy pieces and natural fabrics paired with high-tech ones.

The color palette contains lots of white, grays and black.

The designers are confident about pumping up the glam factor on the runway because the pre-spring collection was well received by buyers, with orders increasing by 18 percent.

Michela Piva, chief executive officer of Ferré, said she is focused on regaining market share in the U.S., where she is scouting for a store location in New York. In Milan, the flagship will be refurbished by yearend to accommodate a new store concept Piva describes as a “box of light.” An abundance of white, ivory, steel, leather and touches of black make for a radical departure from the previous format of black, red and ivory.

Piva cited the wider range of accessories, including costume jewelry, as the fastest-growing category, though she declined to give figures.

Ferré has 11 directly operated stores, 17 franchised ones and 90 points of sale worldwide.

Coming soon are 10 openings, including ones in Doha, Qatar; Baku, Azerbaijan, and a second boutique in The Dubai Mall. Meanwhile, the joint venture with Dubai-based real estate firm GIO Developments to design and build a $1.2 billion tower in Dubai will lead to licenses in the home arena.

“It’s never easy to continue the legacy of a great designer who created a very precise style, but the challenge is to interpret it with our style and add something more,” said Aquilano.

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