A Midsummer Day’s Set With Salvatore Ferragamo – WWD

MILAN The sultry weather and empty streets of Milan in mid-August that usually lend the city a silent, surreal feel offered the perfect scenario for Salvatore Ferragamo to shoot its latest project.

The fashion house strengthened its partnership with Italian director Luca Guadagnino to conceive the ad campaign for its spring 2021 collection, which will be unveiled on Sept. 26 with a physical coed fashion show staged at the city’s Rotonda della Besana location.

The campaign will add to Guadagnino’s feature-length documentary on the company’s founder Salvatore Ferragamo that will be presented in the Out of Competition section during the Venice Film Festival, which runs Sept. 2 to 12. Therefore, the brand’s longtime bond with the film industry — the founder first developed his business in Hollywood by creating shoes for the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn — will find expression in two separate projects, both filtered through Guadagnino’s vision: one celebrating Ferragamo’s heritage, the other deploying his cinematic language to enhance the brand’s current aesthetic and engage the modern audience.

“In this peculiar time that we’re in, where you can’t really do things in the same way as before, I’m very keen to move Ferragamo forward, take this very negative moment we’re in and turn it into a positive. I’m trying to somehow embrace our past, which is of course the fact that our founder was so engaged with filmmaking, but take that concept for now,” said the label’s creative director Paul Andrew, who invited WWD on set during the week-long shoot for the campaign.

As many of his peers, the designer called into question many aspects of his job and of the fashion industry at large during the pandemic, including the amount of products being manufactured, the format of presenting collections and the way ad images are produced and promoted.

“We have understood that even the campaign videos that we do, that normally are secondary to the actual still images, have got so much attention and appreciation. So this season I thought: ‘Why not make that the focus?’,” said Andrew, revealing the final images will be stills taken from the video. “So there’s a lot of new things that we’re trying. And I would say it’s quite daunting because it’s a new process for us, but that makes it even more exciting in a way.”

Paul Andrew behind the scenes of Salvatore Ferragamo’s spring 2021 ad campaign. 
Simone Lezzi/WWD

Andrew recalled first meeting Guadagnino last year, when he invited him to attend one of the brand’s fashion shows. “I was really keen to meet him because I’m such a huge fan of his work, starting from 2009 with “Io sono l’Amore.” I fell in love with his way of filmmaking and his incredible use of color and light and clearly also for the appreciation for fashion, because that was also so important in the movie,” he said. Following Guadagnino movies, including “A Bigger Splash,” “Suspiria” and “Call Me By Your Name which Andrew defined as one of his favorite films of all time cemented the designer’s interest in working with the “cinematic genius.”

According to Andrew, they share a similar artistic language and clicked right off when conceiving the video concept. “He’s been the most incredible collaborator, and we really pushed each other in different ways, I think. But the way the production is coming together is almost completely new to me. I’ve definitely done film work before with the campaigns but to have the entire thing be filmed and understand how time consuming it is to put together a film [is different],” he said.

Luca Guadagnino and Paul Andrew behind the scenes of Salvatore Ferragamo’s spring 2021 ad campaign. 
Simone Lezzi/WWD

To wit, the partnership resulted in a big production, with Andrew’s and Guadagnino’s teams moving across different locations in Milan — ranging from archways to public gardens — and quickly assembling and dismantling sets while respecting all sanitary measures. Although the main concept is still being kept under wraps because of its link to the spring 2021 collection’s theme, the video is set to celebrate the city’s architectural beauty, as seen in the meticulous approach to each scene and different framing options teased on set.

“We show in Milan and it’s an important city for the Ferragamo brand. The day after my last show, this city basically went into lockdown and has been definitely hit harder than other ones in Italy, so I thought this should be a real celebration of this beautiful city that I feel like I owe so much to,” said Andrew.

In order to proceed with the concept, the company had to reverse its usual modus operandi, moving up the campaign shoot from October. “We wanted sun and heat — because it’s a summer collection — and we also wanted to showcase the hidden Milan in a way… It would be impossible to shut off streets completely and we really wanted to make this project work, so it meant that I had to get the collection ready much earlier than planned,” explained Andrew.

The designer revealed this decision internally in early June, speeding up the preparation of the lineup and opting for a more pragmatic approach to the creative process. “Normally we’re doing shows with 55 to 60 looks, but knowing we had to shoot the ad campaign before doing the show made me really focused on what are the key messages fashion-wise that I wanted to present this season,” he said.

Behind the scenes of Salvatore Ferragamo’s spring 2021 ad campaign. 
Simone Lezzi/WWD

Without giving too many details away, Andrew promised the collection will offer “an incredible embrace of color” and unusual tonal combinations, which will evoke one of the core codes of the Ferragamo fashion DNA and will be enhanced by Guadagnino’s signature use of light. Still, a black leather dress also made an appearance during the shoot, donned by Mariacarla Boscono, who was tapped to helm a diverse cast of talents.

Asked if he was attracted to the idea of delving deeper into the movie world and perhaps one day eyeing costume-making opportunities, Andrew remained cautious. “I’ve only been creative director of this brand for almost two years, so there’s been a lot of learning curves and newness for me in that period. It’s really about taking one step at a time and I’m not the sort of person to put myself forward for something until I feel like I’m completely ready for it because I’m always frightened to fail. But who knows what the future holds?” he said.

On the other hand, Guadagnino is not new to the fashion industry. In 2012, he founded the production company Frenesy Film specifically for taking on projects with major fashion brands, and he has directed or produced short films or commercials for luxury labels including Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Sergio Rossi, Cartier, Pomellato and Valentino, among others.

As reported, his documentary on Salvatore Ferragamo will trace the founder’s artistic journey, starting from his career as an apprentice shoemaker in Naples and then becoming the owner of the Hollywood Boot Shop in California, to his return to Italy, establishing his namesake company in Florence. Inspired by Ferragamo’s autobiography, Guadagnino started to develop the film in 2017, reaching out to the founding family and getting access to the fashion brand’s archives and anecdotes.


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