OF ELEQUENCE AND ELEGANCE. Salvatore Ferragamo’s former creative director zooms in on menswear and the brand’s latest collection through a philosophic pair of fashion spectacles
One common trait shared by many fashion designers is an inability to weave the right string of words to paint a clear picture of a particular collection or just fashion in general. Not so with Massimiliano Giornetti from Salvatore Ferragamo.
Instructed in the fine art of literature but always a true sartorial connoisseur by nature, his presence and vision are a delight to the ears and eyes of a fashion enthusiast. In his chat with DA MAN Style, the brand’s former creative director relishes in every bit of newness in menswear, touches on the progressive trends that tickle his curiosity—“I’m a very curious person,” he professes—and unravels all these with point-blank honesty and an irresistible eloquence.
DA MAN: You once mentioned that men dress more formally for casual times and more casually for formal times. Does that notion still apply today?
Massimiliano Giornetti: Yes, I would say that fashion definitely still moves in that direction. Our collections are not designed for a certain age group or for one certain type of man. But they can be worn in many different ways and in countless combinations by men of all age groups according to their personalities, tastes and needs. Take a nice blazer, for example. Combine it with classic shoes and you’ll have a more tailored look. Combine it with sneakers, and the effect is immediately different.
Last year we launched the “A Man’s Story” project and it was about exactly that—a new luxury lifestyle for men for every occasion. We are also working on a number of other projects, which are not divided into formal and informal wear, but which are really focused on the Italian lifestyle. In fact, what I try to highlight in our collections is the Italian joie de vivre, the splendor of life.
“Only a few years ago designers could still choose to live in their ivory towers and dictate trends that consumers would follow slavishly”
DA MAN: Speaking of the “A Man’s Story” project, do you think it is important to reach consumers through digital and online formats?
Massimiliano Giornetti: I do think it is very important to reach our clients digitally nowadays. The status quo in the world of fashion has changed a lot. Only a few years ago designers could still choose to live in their ivory towers and dictate trends that consumers would follow slavishly. It’s not like that anymore. Consumers have changed a lot, from fashion victims to fashion-conscious. So, a creative director must understand their tastes and needs, often even anticipating them.
Fashion is a fast-moving field. Just think of the fast fashion chains that launch more than one collection per season: They play a part in democratizing fashion, thus making it more accessible to the general public. Also think of the millions of users that can watch fashion shows on their PCs, in the comfort of their homes, in real time. If anything, all of that highlights the extent to which communication in the fashion industry has become globalized.
This is why it’s so important to know and understand your end consumer, so you can offer a product that’s always appealing but has also engendered the characteristics of the brand that created it. Quality, attention to detail, unusual choice of color and being in line with fashion tendencies without sacrificing tradition are the vital elements to Salvatore Ferragamo’s worldwide success.
DA MAN: What about Salvatore Ferragamo’s spring/summer 2016 collection? What’s the inspiration behind the brand’s offerings this season?
Massimiliano Giornetti: For the spring/summer 2016 collection, I worked on the notions of eclecticism and lightness, and developed a concept of clashing rhythms. The quotidian style, for a start, is enriched by a wardrobe based on intentionally misaligned precision. High-waist trousers come with razor-sharp creases. Short jackets and mackintoshes, or waterproof coats, reveal precisely-cut profiles. Dry wool suits feature off-color pinstripes, enhanced with bold stitching. Cotton shirts sport broad stripes that do not completely converge.
There are also sharp graphics and luxurious materials complementing abstract geometric shapes and organic textures—sartorial nonchalance turns into a perfectly balanced symphony of eclecticism. The well-cut but dégagé (unobstructed) lines underscore the dynamic surfaces, and are further enhanced by stripes, inserts and pinstripes. Broken stripes on compact sweaters are alternated with precious leather inserts and raffia embroidery, as opposing geometric lines are better showcased through exotic materials. Cacti and monkeys appear on patches and embroidery, as well.
The collection is actually designed by autonomous teams, yet the overall aesthetic is the result of the instinctive combination of several factors to emphasize a sophisticated carefree attitude. The color palette is soft and mellow: brown, khaki, ochre and beige juxtaposed against splashes of turquoise, pink and cactus green. Black is the recurrent link that blends and mellows the palette.
“I always begin with designing the shoes. They give you a real attitude and add a special allure to any look”
DA MAN: How do you normally start a collection?
Massimiliano Giornetti: There are a lot of things that inspire me to start a new collection. Inspiration comes from everywhere. I’m a very curious person: Traveling, books, exhibitions and art are very important sources of inspiration. But when I start designing a collection, I always begin with designing the shoes. Shoes are so important in order to define the final silhouette. They give you a real attitude and add a special allure to any look. The way a person walks and moves is essential. That’s why shoes must be beautiful, but most of all wearable. And for me, it couldn’t be any other way, having access to the amazing archive of Salvatore’s shoes—the masterpieces he created in fantastic color combinations, unusual materials, perfect fits and shapes. So, the shoes are my starting point, and I take it from there to decide on the whole mood of the collection, and the rest comes automatically until it all fits perfectly together.
DA MAN: Have you ever experienced some sort of “writer’s block” in fashion designing?
Massimiliano Giornetti: Honestly speaking, it has never happened to me. As I said, my aesthetic experience is a sort of a continual flux, taking shape unconsciously into physical form in a collection. Every intensely felt experience enriches your vision and may be a source of inspiration: Moments, sensations and emotions can all mix together and merge. Some emotions act as a substrate for others; some seem to hibernate and suddenly awaken years later. Fortunately, this flow of inspiration never stops.
DA MAN: How do you balance between innovation and the aged glamor of Salvatore Ferragamo?
Massimiliano Giornetti: I am very proud and honored to work for a brand with such an important heritage. I generally believe that creativity is born from newness and innovation, but I design without ever forgetting the company’s identity. Salvatore Ferragamo has such a rich history behind it, a constant stream of success and awards at the international level.
Salvatore had his own avant-garde vision, which also remains as one of my personal and essential rules as well: Comfort is not the enemy of elegance or of fashion, but it is an essential component where no factor should be sacrificed. True beauty and wear-ability cannot be separated—a rule so relevantly up-to-date that it makes history and tradition an integral part of modernity itself. I don’t believe in revolution but in evolution, processes that guide the company toward a sense of modernity that respects history, culture, but, above all, the philosophy of Salvatore Ferragamo. What I really desire for the brand is to focus on and highlight its potential and distinctive traits.
“Comfort is not the enemy of elegance or of fashion, but it is an essential component where no factor should be sacrificed”
DA MAN: So, who is the muse for the brand today?
Massimiliano Giornetti: Honestly speaking, I have to say that when I design a garment or an accessory I don’t think of one particular actress, actor or celebrity, but real people. What I think is appreciated most in our collections is the idea that they transmit a typically Italian lifestyle marked by creativity, craftsmanship, continuous care for quality, careful attention to detail, as well as passion and pride for our culture. A new frontier of luxury is about going back to “the slow:” slow gestures and habits, the possibility to dedicate your time to create something unique and special—a kind of modernity that’s both classic and totally Italian.
DA MAN: Last but not least, how do you see the evolution of menswear today?
Massimiliano Giornetti: I believe that menswear will definitely experience an important period of growth in the coming years. Designing for men is different than designing for women. It is vertical, all about details, the importance of cuts and also liberating men from certain traditional codes without entirely changing the classical men’s wardrobe. Designing for women clearly offers many more possibilities and paths to explore season after season. Women are usually bolder and often more open to change. It’s novelty that excites them, so they’re always ready to try out the latest and most daring trends that we have to offer.
Honestly, when I think of men, how they actually live, I realize that changes in their wardrobe are minimal and generally gradual, hardly ever quick. Men are by nature more conservative. Just look at fashion over the last 100 years, and you’d see that men’s fashion is always based on the same items: jackets, trousers, shirts. The big change in menswear has been the “ennobling” of sportswear, now no longer merely used just for its technical advantages in sports, but also for its functions and innate characteristics that are now appreciated in more urban and formal situations as well. The work I did designing for men—the challenge to find original solutions with innovative materials and develop cuts to adapt to the modern male silhouette (but naturally without sacrificing the elegance and formal touch dictated by tradition)—has influenced the work I did on the women’s collection, focusing on rigorous tailoring, comfortable elegance, garments that fit the body perfectly without restricting its movement.
There certainly is the same creative philosophy in both collections. They both represent the world of Salvatore Ferragamo: Creativity and passion for craftsmanship, attention to detail and care for quality, perfect balance between form and substance, a concept of elegance and beauty that has never become detached from the actual wearability and comfort of the garment itself.
A version of this story has been published in DA MAN Style spring/summer 2016. Get your copy here.