Salvatore Ferragamo is venturing forward into the new era of fashion. Yesterday’s revelation that London based, upcoming fashion prodigy, Maximilian Davis, is taking over the creative reigns of the fashion house, might be the injection of fresh blood the company needs to bring it into the future. But who exactly is this young hot gun, who at only 26 years of age, is set to revive a notoriously risk averse Italian fashion house? In the article below, we explore the young designer’s rapid rise to prominence.
In a morning press announcement this week, Salvatore Ferragamo announces that Maximilian Davis would be the label’s new creative director, taking over from Paul Andrew, who stepped down the previous year to design for his namesake brand. The Italian Fashion House has long been rumoured to be in need of a creative overhaul, allowing it to move beyond the outmoded conservatism that the brand’s name had become synonymous with.
A Total Revamp
Ferragamo started a revamp of its image a few months ago, announcing the arrival of Marco Gobbetti as CEO, and has made a definitive follow through this week in handing over the creative reins to Davis.
“I am delighted to welcome Maximilian at the house of Ferragamo,” Gobbetti says. “The clarity of his vision together with the level of execution and his powerful aesthetic make him one of the most brilliant talents of his generation. His work is defined by elegance, refined sensuality, and constant commitment to quality.”
Vogue Business observes that the luxury brand has experienced a decline in audiences within the younger generations over recent years, and hiring one of Britain’s most trending and fashion-forward talents, is nothing short of a stroke of genius.
“Through his lens of contemporary sensibility, he will write a new, exciting chapter for this house built on a heritage of creativity, craftsmanship, sophistication, and outstanding human values.”
The announcement further explains why Davis, who was expected to win this year’s LVMH Prize, mysteriously left the competition before the Paris showroom opened.
Second Generation Brit
Davis, a 26-year-old from Manchester, is a second generation Brit, with his heritage firmly anchored in a large Afro-Caribbean family. Although both pairs of grandparents immigrated to the United Kingdom, High Snobiety reports that the young designer identifies strongly with his roots.
“That’s something I can’t forget,” claims Davis. “England is where I was born and where I grew up, but it’s not what made me who I am today. It’s not my culture. My identity is Trinidadian-Jamaican. Never forget where you started.”
Davis is blessed to be born into a family that embraces the colourful and sensual world of fashion, deeply influencing his youthful leanings. His mother had a brief modelling stint in the ’70s, and both his father and older sister studied clothing design before moving on with different careers. Although, as Net-A-Porter reports, he had his own distinct style from early on.
“I remember telling my dad that I would never wear a suit, and that I didn’t like tailoring,” he reflects, absorbing the irony of his fashion evolution. His highly praised debut collection in SS21 includes crisp suit jackets with sharp-edged shoulders, leg-lengthening tailored pants and elegant evening dresses playfully urbanised with slashed skirts and cut-out racer backs.
A Form of Research
Davis moved to London in 2014, where he studied at the London College of Fashion. Working a part time job at Selfridges, he fortuitously met the designer Grace Wales Bonner, a colleague in his department store at the time. He went on to join her team, becoming a junior designer, and Bonner mentored him through this early stage. W Magazine writes that when asked what influenced him most during his time with her, he replies,
“The way that you can use literature, music, or anything, really, as a form of research. It’s something we weren’t really taught in university, and I think no one else has really explained or shown that kind of method.”
Davis’s early designs were inspired by his maternal grandmother. She taught him how to use a sewing machine at the early age of six, and in an article by the the New York Times, he fondly recalled that watching her dress up in her Sunday best for church left left an indelible mark on his childhood years, that would go on to help shape his unique style.
“It was the one moment where the Black community in our area would really get dressed up,” he said. “There was something joyous about that.”
His debut collection at Fashion East — the London-based talent incubator — for his namesake line, launched via a digital showcase last September due to the global Covid pandemic. It was a fond tribute to his grandmother who had passed away in 2017, assembling a vivid collection inspired by memories of Trinidad.
His first show generated immediate buzz in the fashion world, and he quickly became a trending topic. His brand garnered notoriety for its harmonious merger of femininity with androgyny, and practical wearability with an underlying sexiness. His tops displayed daring cutouts, while blazers with oversized proportions were sculpted at the waist to purposefully enhance the female silhouette. His bold use of colour-blocking, and his shows all-Black model ensemble, saw the young designer’s look book stand head and shoulders above the rest.
“That clarity, confidence, and level of execution has sent people sideways,” says Fashion East founder Lulu Kennedy as reported by Harpers Bazaar. “He’s on fire, and I’m super proud to be putting him on at the start of what’s going to be a major career.”
The young trailblazer founded his eponymous brand in 2020 and built a strong following for sharp elegance, bright colours and a culturally-hybrid point of view. He quickly attracted a slew a slew of A-list high profile celebrities coveting his brand including Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, ASAP Rocky and Dua Lipa.
A Slick Collection
In his second showing at Fashion East, Davis presented a slick collection that dove into the space-age futurism of the mid-1960s, and delved further into the experiences of his Trinidadian grandmother and her immigration to the UK. Inspired by a collection of her old photographs, he reinterpreted the round-shouldered suits and column skirts of the 60s in far sharper relief, with tiny buckled minis offset by sculpted, batwing shirts and flared disco pants matched with pristine cinched tailored jackets. The show received rave reviews, with the New York Times writing, “with his joyful second collection, Maximilian Davis establishes himself as one of London’s most exciting fashion talents.”
Rewriting the Narrative
Underlying the Designer’s successful follow up collection, was his strong motivation to rewrite the narrative for fashion and the Black community, and a perseverant dedication to elevate his vision of Black British culture to its rightful place on the fashion map. Davis explains to Dazed Digital that his AW21 offering was a way of reclaiming the narrative.
“I wanted to talk about Black elegance. There’s so much happening in the world that’s opened so many people’s eyes, and people are really wanting to learn about different cultures. I wouldn’t say I’m an amazing speaker or writer, but I feel like I powerfully translate my culture through my designs”
Effective from March 16, 2022, Maximilian is set to take over as Salvatore Ferragamo’s creative director. Davis’s appointment to the Italian label is ground breaking for several reasons. He is amongst only a handful of Black designers to have been handed the reins of a historic fashion house, with his legacy of predecessors at a count of less than five. Additionally, he is a young designer at the beginning of his career with only two established shows under his belt. Davis expressed his gratitude at this remarkable opportunity on Instagram where he writes,
“I am deeply honoured to be joining Ferragamo, and grateful for the opportunity to build on the rich and profound heritage of the house,” Davis wrote on Instagram. “Ferragamo represents a dedication to timeless elegance and sophistication that I find incredibly inspiring. I’m looking forward to articulating my vision, elevated by the codes of Italian craftsmanship, quality and innovation.”
We look forward to his debut collection at the helm of Salvatore Ferragamo in the AW Milan Fashion Week of 2022.
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