Ferrari debuts in fashion with a Generation-Z collection
Ferrari, with its prancing stallion symbol, may be the ultimate masculine luxury symbol of Italy. But this weekend, when it launched its first ever full fashion collection on top of its auto production line in Maranello, there were even more girls than guys on its catwalk.
"Cars don’t have any sex, and neither do these clothes," explained Rocco Iannone, the veteran of Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana, whom Ferrari hired as its creative director of fashion.
Ferrari is also the ultimate symbol of commercial success in life, most of whose owners are over 50 before they buy their first high-performance car. Yet this factory runway was crammed full of models half that age, and clothes for Generation Z, albeit inspired by the auto’s ergonomic design, high-performance materials and techy finish.
A courageous decision also, considering this brand’s heritage. A visit to the museum of the brand’s founder Enzo Ferrari reveals an exhibition devoted to Gianni Agnelli, the famed former owner of Fiat, whose company eventually absorbed Ferrari, and who was the outstanding example of patrician Italian style.
The contrast between Agnelli, with his Neapolitan tailoring, broad silk ties and timeless elegance, could not have been greater. As Iannone sent out a voluminous, logo-driven collection of chunky coats, jackets and sportswear that recalled contemporary ideas by the likes of Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga or Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton.
Instead of Off-White, one wag at the show had already dubbed Ferrari’s debut as "Off-Red," referencing the brand’s legendary Testarossa 12-cylinder roadsters.
"For me it was vital to discover who were the icons of Ferrari. To me, Ferrari is a brand that is very much part of pop culture and music and the arts. So, I tried to give sense to the idea of a Ferrari lifestyle. It always existed and that’s what I wanted to make a contemporary collection around," explained Iannone in a pre-show press conference.
Standing before mood boards that included a montage of stars and icons in Ferraris – from Brigitte Bardot and Lambert Wilson to Linda Evans and Mick Jagger. A newer selection of icons beside them showed off Ferrari’s future targets – Timothée Chalamet, Dua Lipa and A$AP Rocky.
"Women were always part of our images and reputation. That’s why 80% of this wardrobe is gender fluid and any look can vary in size from XXXS to XXXL," noted the designer.
Based in Maranello, in a north-central Italian region historically more known for ceramics than cars, Ferrari appears fully committed to a modern-day fashion launch. The collection began e-tailing immediately after the show on both Ferrari’s own website and on that of LuisaViaRoma, the famed Florentine store that boasts Italy’s hippest online boutique.
Overnight the collection will also go into Ferrari’s radically upgraded new store in Maranello, again overhauled into a new streamlined space.
Ferrari fashion is thus decidedly gender neutral, with curvy shapes, and raglan shoulders that riffed on the cars curvilinear silhouettes. Just as Ferrari’s car designers often based their creations on anatomical details of the human body, so too did Iannone, with elongated waists and musculature.
"Our clothes must be recognizable not for the logo but also for their spirit," added the 37-year-old designer.
Throughout, he injected loads of high-graphic prints – punchy blends of 1950s posters and magazine covers suggesting speed, images of the Cavallino prancing horse and even champions taking the checkered flag.
There was also a sense of high performance about the knitwear, while the key fabric was a feather-light but densely woven nylon that felt like silk to touch.
Responding to consumer’s growing demand for customized luxury, Ferrari developed Tailor Made a decade ago, a bespoke service where its well-heeled clients can order the exact color of Connolly leather, cashmere seat cover, or brushed metal gear box to suit their dreams.
Visiting editors were given a tour of that space that weekend, which clearly inspired Iannone. Beside the multiplicity of materials hung toiles and patterns that played with geometry and an assemblage of fabrics.
Whether made in techy jacquards that looked like silk taffeta, treated wools, nylon organza or light carbon fibers, the clothes were mostly rain resistant and durable.
Ferrari will also develop completely new auto frames for uber-wealthy clients, sculpting life-size models out of clay using lasers and computer-guided drills. Those same terracotta cars, very much part of the brand's heritage, appeared in several fine leather trench coats finished with padded red shoulders. Pattern cutters also went into overdrive with drop-shoulder dusters, padded jerkins, and matelassé nylon coats in the brand’s signature canary yellow and dense scarlet.
The collection certainly marked a major shift in direction for Ferrari, which will see product diversification shift from a licensing-driven model to a luxury marque concept.
Ferrari still plans to retail some licensed products – including Puma sneakers, Ray Ban shades and Lego kits, not perhaps, a luxury item – but its target consumer for clothes is now the happening hipster in LA, Miami, Milan or Dubai. That’s where the brand will open new stores over the next couple of years.
There were even some sleek new white Puma sneakers, where Iannone’s influence was evident, their sides cut like car ventilators. Quite why he showed so many high black socks – an odd Italian obsession – with white Ferrari logos was hard to fathom.
However, all told, this was an impressive auto fashion debut by Iannone, aided by the presence of several super models marching on an LED catwalk. Mariacarla Boscono opened the action, while Natalia Vodianova came in the slipstream for the final look, strutting before a front row that included Ferrari’s two Formula One drivers – Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz – as well as famed industrial designers Marc Newson and Jony Ive.
The entire cast marched in techy high heels that looked to be made of tungsten steel, past the Ferrari assembly line, devoted to its 12-cylinder cars –the heart of the brand's DNA. All inside a plant that barely makes 10,000 cars a year.
"This is the haute couture of car manufacturing; every single station is manned. We assemble nothing here with robots. The artisan is at the heart of everything Ferrari does," concluded Iannone, who took an extended running bow, before pausing and bowing before John Elkann, the grandson of Gianni Agnelli and the patron of the whole shebang.
Will consumers forsake mega runway brands for a car company’s clobber? That’s a big bet, but at least Ferrari, Iannone and Elkann have the couture of their convictions.
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