Last weekend, 100 of the world’s Italian-style journalists and tasters were chafed to the Ferrari headquarters, a rising glass factory designed by Jean Nouvel in the small Italian town of Maranello, in black pickups. They sit surgically masked on cubes that are at a social distance, except for what on a normal day is an assembly line for F1 cars, but which has been turned into a runway on this day.
Surrounded by unfinished cars on the cherry red conveyor belt of the plant, they watch models parade in vintage strip-printed shirts and organza nylon jackets that shine like freshly washed vehicles. Seat belts with logo also doubled belts.
It was Ferrari’s first fashion collection: an ambitious and well-funded effort to transform the luxury car brand into a luxury lifestyle name that would serve as an avatar of Italian aesthetics to the world.
“We are a start-up,” says Nicola Boari, chief executive of Ferrari’s diversification brand, which oversees the new range of clothing, “but we are the happiest company in the world.”
The car company has been leasing its name for two decades to a wide range of merchandise of which the Ferrari shield is the main selling point: perfumes, shampoos, T-shirts, logo-decorated veils for the Saudi Arabian market, even a Ferrari computer .
Now the company takes its design internally and luxuriously. It hired Rocco Iannone, formerly of Armani and Pal Zilieri, as creative director and discontinued more than half of its licensing transactions, maintaining only the key partnerships led by Mr. and Richard Mille for watches.
“This is not a side project,” said John Elkann, Ferrari’s interim CEO and CEO of Ferrari’s parent company, Exor, which also owns Stellantis (including Fiat-Chrysler), The Economist and Italian GEDI media group. “It’s important to understand.”
Exor has become increasingly interested in fashion brands and last December bought a majority stake in Shang Xia, a brand founded by Hermès, followed by a 24 percent purchase of Christian Louboutin in March.
Ferrari’s fashion range gives the idea that Exor is possibly the first major luxury group in Italy to compete with the giant French conglomerates LVMH and Kering. It has been speculated in the Italian media that an Exor share in Armani is imminent, although according to a June 9 report in the Italian newspaper The Sun 24 Ore, an Armani-Ferrari merger was rejected by both sides. (Later denial of the story 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 top category is interesting,” he said. But although Mr. Elkann said there are no plans to turn Exor into a luxury group, despite a small funding project with a range of small and medium-sized Italian companies doing business in food, cosmetics, design and fashion.
Ferrari is the leading star among Exor’s brands, he said, and the model line is part of Ferrari’s strategy to “try to do better, and in a much more coherent way. We have legitimacy for a lifestyle and To propose an Italian lifestyle to the world. ‘
Ferrari has previously branded almost everything, and that makes Mr. Elkann confident about selling clothes. But will the customer who bought a $ 60 baseball cap for wearing a Ferrari horse be convinced of the striking construction of a $ 1,800 bomber?
“There are a lot of people who already buy Ferrari-linked products, right?” Mr Elkann said. “If I give them something better, why would they not buy it?”
The outfit is meant to attract Ferrari fans who may not be ready to brag about a sports car (entry price: $ 240,000 before customization), but want to wrap themselves in the Ferrari brand, as indicated by heavy Italian clothing that at $ 3,000 for a leather excavator like a bucket chair from a vintage driver.
Still, to immerse Ferrari in the fashion sounds that are as likely as Chanel announcing a downtown venture, and Mr. Iannone acknowledged that there were challenges. “From an aesthetic point of view, in the beginning we have to be very literal with symbols and anatomy to legitimize our design area,” he said.
For mr. Iannone meant combing the anthropomorphic car shapes from Ferrari’s archives and adapting them to the human body, as with a composite parka of leather, jersey and cotton reminiscent of the lobes and cavities of a sports car’s muscle shape.
The clothes and race cars have a tendency to bright highlights: a yellow strap on the asymmetrically positioned ankle seat of a Ferrari Monza, for example, appears as a single detachable yellow sleeve on an asymmetrically colored trench coat. And the cars themselves have become material inspired by Pop Art like a recurring Warholian version on his.
According to Mr. Boari, the collection of tools is also a way to new markets, especially those that are younger, feminine and mostly Chinese. He said Ferrari’s fashion goals are set on distant dividends, on slow growth that will culminate in seven to ten years, which will ultimately contribute 10 percent of the brand’s earnings. (Ferrari, one of Italy’s most valuable public companies, has an income of nearly $ 4 billion in 2020 despite the pandemic and a seven-week factory eviction.)
“But if we were just profits, we would stick to licensed goods that are extremely profitable,” he said. Boari said.
Emanuele Farneti, the 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 lot of Italian style and Italian production. not.’ Mr. Farneti noted that he had read a McKinsey report on corporate longevity and that he would be very upset that so few Italian companies would endure over future generations.
The model line will be offered for sale this month at the power store dealer Luisa Via Roma, as well as in Ferrari’s own network of a dozen stores, each of which is being refurbished to include Mr. Elkann’s vision of a global upgrade. The Maranello flagship, for example, was refurbished by the London Sybarite studio and given an undulating façade of red glass and white brick walls.
As part of the new imagery, even Cavallino, the Ferrari-owned Maranello restaurant where Enzo Ferrari ate and had meetings, was reloaded with multicolored 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 match what we do in cars.”
In many ways, Ferrari has already been a distribution line: the flashy sports cars sell for prices that run into the millions, as they are road-ready counterparts to the unattainable racing cars of Formula 1 dreams. Why not expand to cape-style motorcycle jackets and high-heeled metal high heels that are more Prada than Puma?
High fashion is different from cars or even trademarks with logo. But a brand in today’s hypercommercial 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 to belong to the story and to the lifestyle they associate with it.
If the Ferrari clothing collection is more about groundbreaking brands and logo candy (Ferrari sports socks!) Than about groundbreaking concepts in fashion, it was also a more thoughtful debut than many people expected.
There was a crowd of fun like the racer-print silks (which Mr. Elkann wore during the show) and unisex sports jackets that were luxuriously made in technical material with which Mr. .Under the red spotlights of the treadmill of the assembly line, the bright colors of the clothes match the look-at-me colors of the sports cars on the other side of the runway.
While Mr. Bottura set out on his refurbished trattoria specialties, the showgoers exchanged verdict. Some suspected that the clothing would be for race car drivers, or street addicted teens, but instead the collection rendered more skillfully and ultimately a deft way to shop at the brand, even without a striking car. Or even a driver’s license.