MILAN — The trifecta format didn’t work.
On Thursday, Salvatore Ferragamo revealed that Paul Andrew, who had joined the company as women’s footwear director in September last year, will now be in charge of the women’s wear ready-to-wear line as well. His first collection for the brand in this new role will bow for fall 2018. Andrew will oversee the development of all women’s product categories, as well as the creative contents of all marketing, communication and image activities.
The appointment was made public after trading hours in Milan, where the Florence-based company is listed. Shares closed down 1.51 percent to 22.79 euros.
In November 2016, Fulvio Rigoni was appointed women’s ready-to-wear design director and Guillaume Meilland as men’s rtw design director. Rigoni debuted his looks on the catwalk in September 2016, but his efforts have received a mixed response, while Andrew’s footwear collections have generally been praised.
“Paul has a dynamic vision for the Ferragamo woman, which he has demonstrated with crystal precision and success in footwear over the past year,” said chief executive officer Eraldo Poletto. “He has a sensitivity for the essential codes and values of the Ferragamo house, and is able to recast and reassert them with an exciting, modern energy. I am confident that with this new responsibility Paul will now be able to creatively unify all categories of the women’s business with coherence and synergy, strengthening our brand identity.”
“This is a good decision,” said Armando Branchini, deputy chairman of Milan-based InterCorporate. “Shoes and leather goods are the company’s core business and a designer that knows how to marry heritage and style innovation, obviously in a circumscribed way but still evolving the brand, as Paul Andrew has done in footwear, will also do well in ready-to-wear, which is less relevant in terms of dimension for the company.”
One luxury goods analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that “Poletto is a capable executive and does not waste time, he is a fast decision maker. If he realized that Rigoni’s collections were not performing, he probably thought it was best to quickly nip it in the bud.”
Luca Solca, sector head, luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas, believes “this is a sign that Ferragamo is still looking for the right path and that they are still at a certain distance from succeeding in awakening the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and giving her a strong and desirable personality.”
Branchini said the fashion industry “is in a particular moment, which emphasizes individual and innovative creativity. Designers are very important and make the difference. Just look at what Alessandro Michele or Anthony Vaccarello are doing for Gucci and Saint Laurent, the added value they bring.”
Federica Montelli, head of fashion at Italy’s La Rinascente department stores, said that Andrew “has a measured taste that fits well with the identity of the house.” She was confident that the designer, while perhaps inexperienced in terms of rtw, will be helped by being fully backed by management and the Ferragamo family.
“It’s an interesting breakthrough for him, he is very charismatic and this choice does not surprise me,” continued Montelli. “He knows what he wants and there’s been some difficulties, a lack of a precise direction in terms of apparel” that has weighed down Ferragamo in the past, although she admitted this is a “corollary” category for the company. “They could have gone with a superstar designer or with yet another new designer, but the company probably wants to maintain a design consistency, viewing this as more important at the moment without overturning the situation with the risk of damaging the brand.”
Andrew expressed his gratitude “for the confidence and trust the Ferragamo group and family have put in me. It has been a privilege to work with the expertise of one of the world’s great fashion and leather goods houses. I am thrilled by the opportunities that lay ahead in forging a single, powerful identity for a new Ferragamo woman.”
As reported, in the first six months of the year, the company’s footwear category was up 1.3 percent to 312.7 million euros, representing 43.6 percent of the total. During a conference call with analysts to discuss the first half figures, chief financial officer Ugo Giorcelli said the feedback to Andrew’s first collection was “positive, definitely off to a good start, but did not yet materially impact the first-half performance.” Andrew’s women’s shoes debuted with the pre-fall 2018 season in January in New York and were then presented in Seoul in March.
“The penetration is still low, but higher than the rest of the collections and the velocity is gaining traction,” said Poletto at the time, adding that, “not only with women’s shoes, by the first quarter of 2018 we will be in the place where we want to be.”
Reviewing the spring collection last month, the divide between footwear and apparel was clear as WWD reported: “You have to wonder how the design process works now that Paul Andrew is firmly in charge of accessories and Fulvio Rigoni, the women’s ready-to-wear. Who leads? Here’s guessing it’s Andrew.[…] The collection’s shoes, bags and belts drew the eye more than the clothes, which felt built to match.”
Andrew also designs a namesake men’s and women’s footwear brand, which he launched in 2013. In 2014 he was named winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, becoming the first footwear designer to receive the top honor. He worked at Donna Karan for nearly a decade — rising to the role of vice president, design, shoes and accessories. Prior to working with Karan, Andrew held design roles at both Calvin Klein and Narciso Rodriguez. He has also worked at Alexander McQueen.
Ferragamo went through several changes last year, following the departure of creative director Massimiliano Giornetti after 16 years with the brand, and the arrival of Eraldo Poletto as chief executive officer, succeeding Michele Norsa, who led the company for 10 years.
Prior to Ferragamo, Rigoni worked at brands including Prada, Gucci, Jil Sander and most recently, Christian Dior, where he designed both ready-to-wear and haute couture. Poletto in November last year expressed his belief that each designer’s individual background would help strengthen the brand and its image.