Ferrari goes into fashion
Last weekend, 100 journalists and trendsetters from the Italian style world were driven in black vans to Ferrari headquarters, a burgeoning glass factory designed by Jean Nouvel in the small Italian town of Maranello. They sat surgically masked on socially distant cubes in addition to what is, on a normal day, an F1 car assembly line but which that day had been turned into a track.
Surrounded by unfinished cars on the factory’s cherry-red conveyor belt, they saw models parading in vintage, roadster-print shirts. and ojackets in rganza nylon shiny like freshly waxed vehicles. Belt-lined logo seat belts.
This was Ferrari’s first haute couture collection: an ambitious and well-funded attempt to transform the brand from a luxury car company into a luxury lifestyle name that will serve as an avatar of Italian aesthetics in the world.
“We are a start-up,” said Nicola Boari, general manager of Ferrari’s brand diversification arm, which oversees the new clothing line, “but we are the luckiest start-up in the world.”
For two decades, the automaker has leased its name to a wide range of merchandise whose main selling point is the Ferrari shield: perfumes, shampoos, T-shirts, sails branded for the Saudi market, even a Ferrari computer.
Today, the company takes its design in-house and upscale. He hired Rocco Iannone, formerly of Armani and Pal Zilieri, as creative director and terminated more than half of his licensing deals, keeping only key partnerships that will be overseen by Mr. Iannone, including Puma. for sneakers, Ray-Ban for sunglasses. and Richard Mille for watches.
“This is not a side project,” said John Elkann, interim CEO of Ferrari and CEO of Ferrari’s parent company, Exor, which also owns Stellantis (including Fiat-Chrysler), The Economist and the group. Italian media GEDI. “It’s important to understand.”
Exor has shown growing interest in fashion brands, buying a controlling stake last December in Shang Xia, a brand founded by Hermès, and then buying 24% of Christian Louboutin in March.
Ferrari’s fashion line feeds the idea that Exor could be the first major Italian luxury group capable of competing with the gigantic French conglomerates LVMH and Kering. There was speculation in the Italian media that Exor’s stake in Armani was imminent, although according to a June 9 article in the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, an Armani-Ferrari merger was rejected by both parties. (The subsequent story denials by the two companies left the possibility open, although Mr. Elkann said there was “no big plan” for Exor and Armani.)
“We have a lot of interests, and one is definitely brands, and within brands, the premium category is interesting,” he said. But while Mr Elkann said there were no plans to turn Exor into a luxury group, despite a minor funding project with a range of Italian small and medium-sized companies active in food, cosmetics, design and fashion.
Ferrari is the high-end star among the Exor brands, he said, and the fashion line is part of a Ferrari strategy “trying to do better, and in a much more consistent way.” We have the legitimacy to represent a lifestyle, and an Italian lifestyle, to the world. “
Ferrari has already marked almost everything, which makes Mr Elkann confident about selling clothes. But will the customer who bought a $ 60 baseball cap because it wears Ferrari’s prancing horse be convinced by the striking construction of a $ 1,800 racing stripe bomber?
“There are already a lot of people buying Ferrari related products, aren’t there? Mr. Elkann said. “So if I give them something better, why don’t they buy it?” “
The garment is intended to appeal to Ferrari fans who may not be ready to fall for a sports car (entry price: $ 240,000 before customization) but who would like to wrap themselves in the Ferrari brand, like the cite chic Italian-made clothing at the top of the list. $ 3,000 for a pleated leather trench coat like a vintage driver’s bucket seat.
Yet for Ferrari, Chanel is as likely to lean into the sounds of haute couture as Chanel announces a CBD business, and Mr. Iannone acknowledged there were challenges. “Aesthetically, at first we have to be very literal with symbols and anatomy in order to legitimize our design territory,” he said.
For Mr. Iannone, that meant combing through the anthropomorphic shapes of cars from the Ferrari archives and adapting them to the human body, such as with an assembled parka of leather, jersey and cotton that recalls the lobes and hollows of the muscular form of sportscar.
Clothing and racing cars share a propensity for bright reflections: a yellow stripe on the asymmetrical single seat of a Ferrari Monza appeared as a single, detachable yellow sleeve over an asymmetric-colored trench coat, for example. And the cars themselves have become Pop Art inspired fabric patterns, like a recurring Warholian reproduction on silk.
According to Mr. Boari, the ready-to-wear collection is also a route to new markets, especially those that are younger, female and predominantly Chinese. He said Ferrari’s fashion goals are set on distant dividends, on slow growth that will germinate in seven to ten years, ultimately contributing 10 percent of the brand’s profits. (Ferrari, one of the most important state-owned companies in Italy, achieved a turnover of nearly $ 4 billion in 2020 despite the pandemic and a seven-week plant shutdown.)
“But if our concern was only profit, we would stick with licensed products, which are extremely profitable,” Boari said.
Emanuele Farneti, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, who attended the show, said it was “significant, and not at all obvious, that Ferrari would choose an Italian designer and do something with a very Italian flair and a Italian production “. Mr Farneti noted that he had read a McKinsey report on corporate longevity and was shocked that so few Italian companies were expected to endure into future generations.
The fashion line goes on sale this month at powerful retailer Luisa Via Roma as well as Ferrari’s own network of a dozen stores, each of which are being remodeled to reflect Mr. Elkann of a brand-wide upgrade. Maranello’s flagship, for example, was revamped by London studio Sybarite and featured an undulating facade of red glass and white brick walls.
As part of the new image, even Cavallino, the Ferrari-owned Maranello restaurant where Enzo Ferrari ate and had meetings, has been rebooted with polychrome interiors by India Mahdavi and updated menus by Massimo Bottura.
“It’s about turning a licensing model into a controlled model,” Elkann said. “The quality has to be up to what we do in the cars. ”
In many ways, Ferrari was already a broadcast line: flashy sports cars sell for prices that run into the millions because they are road-ready counterparts to the inaccessible race cars of Formula 1 dreams. Shouldn’t that expand to include the cape-style motorcycle jackets and towering metallic high-heeled pumps that are more Prada than Puma?
Haute couture is a different field than cars or even logo-stamped merchandising equipment. But a brand, in today’s hyper-commercialized reality, is not its products. A brand is storytelling, marketing and perception. Customers buy a brand because they believe in the story that surrounds it, because they want to buy the patina of belonging to that story and the lifestyle they associate with it.
While the Ferrari clothing collection focused more on pioneering branding exercises and logo-derived products (Ferrari sports socks!) Than on pioneering fashion concepts, it was also a more thoughtful start than many. not expecting it.
There were crowd-pleasing garments like the race-print silks (which Mr. Elkann wore to the show) and unisex sports jackets made luxurious in technical fabrics with what Mr. Iannone called “a feel of. haute couture, ”alongside more awkward notes like ridged tire elbows. Under the red spotlights of the assembly line podium, the vivid colors of the clothing matched the look tones of the sports cars beyond the track.
At the post-show dinner in Cavallino, as Mr. Bottura’s table popped up to display his revamped trattoria specialties, spectators exchanged verdicts. Some had speculated that the clothes would be aimed at race car drivers or streetwear-loving teenagers, but instead found the collection to be more skillfully rendered and, ultimately, a neat way to join the brand even without a car. breathtaking. Or even a driver’s license, for that matter.