Ferrari running in fashion

Last weekend, 100 journalists and tastemakers from around the world of Italian style rode in black vans at the Ferrari headquarters, a giant glass factory designed by Jean Nouvel in the small Italian town of Maranello. They sat surgically masked on socially distant cubes, apart from, on a normal day, an assembly line for F1 cars, but which had been transformed into a runway on this day.

Surrounded by unfinished cars on the plant’s cherry red conveyor belt, they watch as models parade in vintage roadster-printed shirts and heyThe rugby nylon jacket gleams like a freshly waxed vehicle. The logo-laden seatbelt doubled as a belt.

It was Ferrari’s first high-fashion collection: an ambitious and well-funded effort to transform the brand from a luxury automotive company into a luxury lifestyle name that would serve as the embodiment of Italian aesthetics to the world.

“We are a start-up,” said Nicola Bori, chief officer of Ferrari’s branding diversification arm, which oversees the new clothing line, “but we are the luckiest start-up in the world.”

For two decades, the car company has leased its name to a wide range of merchandise whose major selling point is the Ferrari Shield: perfumes, shampoos, T-shirts, logo-glowing veils for the Saudi Arabian market, even That a Ferrari computer too.

Now the company is taking its design in-house and upmarket. It has hired Rocco Iannone, formerly of Armani and Paul Zillieri, as creative directors and has closed more than half of its licensing deals, retaining only key partnerships that will be overseen by Mr. Iannone, including those of sneakers. Puma for sunglasses, 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, Axor, which also owns Stelantis (including Fiat-Chrysler), The Economist and Italy’s GEDI Media Group. “It’s important to understand that.”

Axor has shown growing interest in fashion brands, last December buying a majority stake in Shang Xia, a brand founded by Herms, followed by Christian Louboutin’s 24 percent purchase in March.

Ferrari’s fashion line is feeding the idea that Axor could be Italy’s first major luxury conglomerate to be able to compete with giant French conglomerates LVMH and Kering. There was speculation in the Italian media that an Axor stake in Armani was imminent, although according to a 9 June report in the Italian newspaper il sol 24 ore, an Armani-Ferrari merger was rejected by both sides. (Later denials of the story by both companies left the possibility open, though Mr Elkann said there were “no grand plans” for Axor and Armani.)

“We have many interests, and one is definitely the brand, and within brands, the high range is an interesting one,” he said. But that’s when Mr Elcan said there were no plans to turn Axor into a luxury conglomerate, despite a modest financing project with small and medium-sized Italian companies doing business in food, cosmetics, design and fashion.

Ferrari is the high-end star among Axor’s brands, he said, and the fashion line is part of Ferrari’s strategy of “trying to do better, and in a much more consistent way. We have a lifestyle, and one for the world.” It has legitimacy to represent the Italian way of life.”

Ferrari has branded almost everything before, and this has convinced Mr. Elkann about selling clothes. But will the customer who bought a $60 baseball cap because it has a Ferrari soaring horse on it be convinced by the striking construction of the $1,800 racer-striped bomber?

“Many people are already buying Ferrari-linked products, right?” Mr Elkan said. “So if I give them something better, why don’t they buy it?”

The clothes are meant to attract fans of Ferrari, who may not be ready to spring for a sports car (entry price: $240,000 before customization), but want to cover themselves in the Ferrari brand, as the swanky Italian- $3,000 for a leather ditch like an old driver’s bucket seat, applied by Topping Out.

Still, it is likely for Ferrari to delve into high fashion sounds as Chanel announced the CBD venture, and Mr Iannone acknowledged there were challenges. “Aesthetically, in the beginning we have to be very literal with symbols and anatomy to legitimize our design field,” he said.

For Mr. Iannone, this meant scouring through the anthropomorphic car shapes of Ferrari’s archives and adapting them to the human body, as with the Parka, made of leather, jersey, and cotton, which was the muscular form of a sports car. Remembers K’s lobes and hollows.

Clothes and racecars share a penchant for bright highlights: a band of yellow on the asymmetrically positioned single seat of the Ferrari Monza appears as the only detachable yellow sleeve on an asymmetrically colored trench coat, for example for. And the cars themselves became Pop Art-inspired fabric patterns, such as recurring Warholian reproductions on silk.

According to Mr. Boari, ready-to-wear collections are also a way to enter new markets, especially those that are young, women and mostly Chinese. He said Ferrari’s fashion sights are set on a distant dividend, on slow growth that will sprout in seven to 10 years, eventually contributing 10 percent of the brand’s earnings. (Ferrari, one of Italy’s most valuable public companies, had revenue Nearly $4 billion in 2020 Despite the pandemic and seven weeks of factory closures.)

“But if our only concern was profits, we would stick with licensed goods, which are extremely profitable,” said Mr. Boari.

Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Emanuele Fernetti, who attended the show, said that it was “important, and not at all clear, that Ferrari would choose an Italian designer, and do something with a very Italian style and Italian production.” Mr. Farnetti noted that he had read a McKinsey report on corporate longevity and that future generations were anticipated to endure so few Italian companies.

The fashion line will go on sale this month at powerhouse retailer Luisa Via Roma as well as at Ferrari’s own network of a dozen stores, each of which will be revamped to reflect Mr. Elcan’s vision of a brand-wide upgrade. Used to be. For example, the Maranello flagship was overhauled by Cyberite Studios in London and given an unobtrusive facade of red glass and white brick walls.

As part of creating the new image, Cavallino, the Ferrari-owned Maranello restaurant where Enzo Ferrari ate and held meetings, has been rebooted with polychrome interiors by Bharat Mahdavi and updated menus by Massimo Bottura.

“It’s about turning a licensing model into a controlled model,” Mr Elkann said. “Quality should be equal to what we do in cars.”

In many ways, Ferrari was already a diffusion line: flashy sports cars sell for prices that reach millions because they are the road-ready equivalent to the unattainable racecars of Formula 1 dreams. Why shouldn’t this be expanded to include a cape-style motorcycle jacket and huge metal high-heeled pumps that are more Prada than Puma?

High fashion is a different area from cars or even logo-stamped merchandising gear. But a brand, in today’s hyper-commercial reality, is not its product. 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 a patina to relate to that story and the lifestyle associated with it.

If the Ferrari clothing collection was more about pioneering branding practices and logo-candy merch (Ferrari sports socks!) than it was about pioneering concepts in fashion, it also had a more thoughtful debut than many expected.

There were crowd-pleasers such as racer print silks (which Mr. Elcan wore to the show) and unisex sportswear jackets, which Mr. Iannone provided deluxe in technical clothing with “a haute couture feel”, plus treaded tire elbow patches. Like there were clunky notes too. Under the red spotlight of the .assembly line catwalks, the bright colors of the apparel matched the look-at-me tones of the sports cars beyond the runway.

At the post-show dinner in Cavallino, showgoers swapped judgments as Mr. Bottura tables stopped by to highlight his new trattoria specialties. Some assumed that the clothing would be for racecar drivers, or street-wear teens, but instead presented the collection as a more skilful, and ultimately, clever way to buy into the brand even without a blind eye. Or even a driver’s license, for that matter.

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