Roberto Cavalli

MILAN — Paul Surridge’s task at Roberto Cavalli is not a new one — revitalizing a storied company that has gone through a number of changes: a new owner, the departure of the founding designer and the exit of the latest creative director. Surridge admits he has a pragmatic attitude derived from his men’s wear experience, and he describes himself as an “underdog,” fully aware that this is his opportunity to shine as the new creative director of the Florence-based brand, which also marks his first time approaching women’s wear.

Born in England and a graduate of London’s Central Saint Martins, Surridge was most recently creative consultant at Acne Studios, with responsibility for coordination of the men’s wear collections. Before that, he was creative director of Z Zegna from 2011 to 2014.

Previously, Surridge was design director men at Jil Sander, reporting to then creative director Raf Simons. This is where he met Roberto Cavalli’s current chief executive officer Gian Giacomo Ferraris. Surridge honed his skills at Calvin Klein and Burberry, working with Christopher Bailey from 2003 to 2007.

His work, he said, began with a question: “How does Roberto Cavalli’s glamour and sensuality fit in high fashion today?”

In a preview of the collection bowing today, Surridge said he is expanding the brand’s daywear offer with a more “versatile wardrobe” and he is catering to “liberated women.” Their sensuality comes from toned muscles and an athletic body. “There is a shift from fashion into well-being,” said Surridge, who has been working on the collection for eight weeks — “a very intense eight weeks,” he conceded.

Surridge is respectful of the past of the founding designer — he described “a positive meeting” with him — but is working to make his codes relevant today. This has led to an exploration of materials. “Roberto Cavalli was a pioneer in new leather and knitwear techniques,” said Surridge, but “fashion feeds on the new.”

Surridge did focus on both leather and knitwear for spring, and also on “how things feel,” citing again that need for practicality and comfort.

Roberto Cavalli is “undeniably” about animal prints, but Surridge opted for a graphic zebra print on a trenchcoat in a terra-cotta color. References to Tuscany and earthy hues such as sienna were key for the designer.

Celebrating the company’s leather goods craftsmanship, he offered a pair of alligator jeans in a honey caramel color, with painted edges.

A men’s dress shirt was reelaborated as a field jacket with a lizard collar and metallic rose-gold or copper details. The zebra print on a miniskirt in printed pony has a glossy quality and, worn with goat-hair babouches, has a youthful, modern edge. “Flats convey agility and speed,” he explained.

Surridge did not forgo eveningwear and a black beaded silk knitwear gown that has “a liquid gloss effect” is a stunner. The designer distanced himself from those looks that were “laborious and heavy that make it difficult to sit down in. This has the maximum impact but it’s practical.” He said he also thought of Herb Ritts and his photos of models that were beautiful but also athletic and healthy looking. To wit, Surridge focused on the arms for several looks, with the upper part reminiscent of sports bras or yoga tops.

The 36 looks are completed by bold accessories, such as walnut and ebony bracelets with geometric elements reminiscent of Tuscan nails of Florentine doors knocks, also seen on a bottle green pony and reptile handbag.

Surridge gave a shout out to his team, which was already there when he arrived and who “went beyond the call of duty,” emphasizing the shared passion in writing the next chapter of the brand while “pushing the envelope.”

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