Paul Surridge

MILAN — The Roberto Cavalli Group has zeroed in on its new creative director. WWD has learned that Paul Surridge has been recruited to lead the Italian brand and his first collection is expected to bow for spring 2018.

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.

Surridge succeeds Peter Dundas, who exited the company in October.

In a phone interview, Ferraris praised the “virgin creativity” of Surridge, who will work on the founding designer’s elements, re-elaborating them for today’s customer. “He has been working with Acne, targeting a younger, digital savvy consumer. We met with many designers, but most of them had a distinct style that would have been overbearing, while we wanted to return to Cavalli’s original DNA,” Ferraris explained, as he touted Surridge’s creative vision.

He noted that Surridge also worked at Ruffo, focused on women’s leather designs, and emphasized his skills with prints and denim wear. “This is all part of Roberto Cavalli’s heritage.” The designer is also tasked with returning a focus on daywear to the brand. “Red carpet and evening looks will continue to be important, but we must not forget about everyday attire.”

“I asked myself, do we need an author or an actor? Cavalli’s DNA is already written, we need someone who can understand its modernity,” said Ferraris.
“The company in terms of sales is medium-sized but it is quite complex, with different lines of products, from children’s wear to men’s wear and home.  It’s a fashion luxury lifestyle and we need a creative director, not only a designer,” continued the executive. “Paul is the best fit.”
Surridge will have to manage at least 40 designers, contended Ferraris—hence the need to be a good team director. The fact that he does not have his own collection is also an added asset, as he will be able to focus on Cavalli, he explained. “Paul respects the past while embracing the future, he  loves the codes of the brand and this is a great opportunity.”

Also, the executive is banking on the designer’s ability to lead a team and his understanding of other key aspects connected to his role, from merchandising to communication.

“I am honoured and proud to carry forward the legacy of this extraordinary Italian house,” said Paul Surridge. “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’s 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 has been working on turning the Cavalli company around. As reported last month, the fashion group last year reported a net loss of 55.2 million euros, or $60.7 million, which was a result of restructuring costs and measures taken to rationalize the industrial and logistic structure as well as distribution, which generated non-recurring extraordinary charges. The loss compared with a net profit of 32.7 million euros, or $36.3 million, in 2015, which was lifted by the sale of the building housing the brand’s flagship in Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris.

In the 12 months ended Dec. 31, revenues were down 13.6 percent to 155.2 million euros, or $170.7 million, which compare with 179.7 million euros, or $199.4 million, in the previous year.

The performance in 2016 was also impacted by a decrease in sales over the previous years, explained Ferraris, who joined the company last July, succeeding Renato Semerari.

At Cavalli, Ferraris is focusing on the signature line and ending a number of licenses with the goal of strengthening it, having more control and increasing margins. Starting with the spring 2018 season, the brand’s men’s collections, which was licensed to Gibò, will be brought in-house.

The Just Cavalli license with Staff International, controlled by Renzo Rosso’s OTB, continues in operation.

The Cavalli brand has been going through a series of changes. Italian private equity fund Clessidra bought 90 percent of the company at the end of April 2015, shortly after Dundas’ arrival. Cavalli, the founding designer, retained a 10 percent stake but has eased out of the fashion industry and never attended a show for the brand. Investment group Italmobiliare SpA bought Clessidra last year.

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