Designer debuts can sometimes feel more like regime changes, as it was when Alessandro Michele took over Gucci in 2015 or Phoebe Philo when she arrived at Celine in 2008.
Ahead of Maximilian Davis’ runway debut at Salvatore Ferragamo on Saturday, the Florentine house had already ditched the founder’s surname, zhushed up its logo and wiped its Instagram account clean, supplanting images of Viva ballerina flats and equestrian-tinged Italian sportswear with a sparkly muscle car and a red suede sandal announcing its NEW CHAPTER.
It turns out Davis started out quietly — perhaps too quietly.
“Reenergizing the DNA,” he said backstage, rattling off a host of archival references, from a pair of sparkly sandals worn by Marilyn Monroe in 1959 to the beige trenches and fluid tailoring that opened his coed show, winking to a 1988 collection.
The carrots he’s using to lure younger generations not seduced by Old Hollywood include activewear archetypes, utility details and an off-hand sensuality, seen in the leather HotPants for him and the sheer dresses and sparkly bra tops for her.
His is a sharper, more graphic Ferragamo, focused initially on solid colors — mostly black, white and red — and only two prints: one archival — a hand-drawn leopard; the other personal — sunset gradients that wink to his Caribbean roots.
Still, his open-air show in the vast courtyard of a 17th-century seminary being converted into a Ferragamo hotel never took flight — the clothes often too plain, and the accessories lost amid the expanse of red ground marble that served as a runway. The brand’s double-hooked Gancini hardware could be spotted as an offbeat heel shape.
Manchester-born Davis just turned 27, and said he’s still immersing himself in Italian culture, studying the house’s legacy of craftsmanship and “really trying to define the Ferragamo woman and the man, and also the attitude for the brand.”
Some of his first designs, including sparkly red jeans that were a wink to Monroe’s shoes of yore, will hit stores in November.