Paul Andrew is always up for a new challenge. On Thursday, Salvatore Ferragamo revealed that Andrew, who joined the company as women’s footwear director in September last year, is now to be in charge of the women’s wear ready-to-wear line, too. His first collection for the brand in this new role will debut in fall 2018. Andrew is tasked with the oversight of 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, Italy-based company is listed. Shares closed down 1.51 percent to 22.79 euros ($26.67).
In November 2016, Fulvio Rigoni was appointed women’s ready-to-wear design director and Guillaume Meilland as men’s ready-to-wear design director. Rigoni debuted his looks on the catwalk in September 2016, but his efforts have received a mixed response. Andrew’s footwear collections have generally been praised (Rigoni will now depart).
“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 CEO 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 who 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 do well also 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: “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 of 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 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 is confident that the designer, while perhaps inexperienced in terms of ready-to-wear, 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 ($366.1 million), representing 43.6 percent of the total. During a conference call with analysts to discuss the first-half figures, CFO 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 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: “not only with women’s shoes, by the first quarter of 2018, we will be in the place where we want to be.” Andrew’s first footwear collection for the brand debuted for pre-fall 2017-18. In the first half of the year, revenues rose 1.1. percent to 718 million euros, including a hedging effect.
In a review of the spring collection last month, the divide between footwear and apparel was clear: “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 of 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. In August last year, the men’s assortment was honored with the brand launch award at the Accessories Council’s annual ACE Awards. Andrew also won the Swarovski Award for emerging accessories design talent at the 2016 CFDA Awards.
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 CEO, 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.
Ferragamo’s choice mirrored that of Gucci in March 2004, when Alessandra Facchinetti, John Ray and Frida Giannini succeeded Tom Ford at the creative helm of that brand, responsible for womenswear, menswear and accessories, respectively. That triumvirate did not last long, as Giannini was named Gucci’s creative director for women’s ready-to-wear a year later, succeeding Facchinetti, who resigned two weeks after her second show. Ray stepped down as Gucci’s menswear designer in 2006.
Ferragamo was founded in 1927 by the namesake designer, dubbed “cobbler to the stars” for his work with Hollywood actresses starting in the ’30s. He has left a legacy of innovative designs and materials, from the iconic Diva sandal crafted from multicolored suede bands to the cork platform, the brass heel or the sandal with a wedge embellished with hand-painted flowers.
Andrew has been showing strong respect for the founder of the company, and he has reworked some of his original designs to commercial success, such as Ferragamo’s “flower heel” created in the ’30s. “When you turn it, it looks like a petal. I brought it to a car factory and had it galvanized. It’s become a key silhouette, not only in shoes but in hardware for bags, belts and eyewear,” Andrew said in May. He introduced a technical nylon webbing the Vara model’s bow with frayed edges, oversizing the detail, and he revisited the brand’s storied F-wedge in feminine ankle boots or ankle-strapped pumps in suede, as well as the Gancio logo, applying it on strap sandals. He also returned color to the brand, which was a staple for Ferragamo.