ALESSANDRO MARIA FERRERI FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, THE STYLE GATE CONSULTING FIRM.

Overall impressions: I watched them all. I did not really understand the companies that hosted IRL shows: I do understand it’s been a huge effort to try and get back to normal life, but especially in this moment the challenge was to eventually invent something new and a new methodology that’s not transitional but permanent. The fashion world is so strange: After the first wave [of COVID-19] every company declared that they would have changed the system, produced less, promoted better and even forgone seasons and unified presentations. Little to nothing has been done in that direction. This is because on one side a lot of brands believe we’d Halpern, spring 2021. Sindiso Khumalo, spring 2021. Erdem, spring 2021. better get back to physical shows (and I’m not sure this is a good idea); on the other because inventing alternative methods is really an important creative exercise, which would dismantle a business model that’s 50 years old. Paradoxically for the fashion world “change” is not so banal as one would expect.

Gap between big and small brands: I did not see big differences. And this is a pity. Normally you would expect that big brands, with bigger budgets, could put in play a range of smart and beautiful strategies not only aimed at promoting a potentially new way to present [the collections], but also formats from which they could gather content for social media and communication throughout the year. On the contrary, it all looked lukewarm. A range of smaller brands definitely showed more creativity, but with lower budgets the outcome did not always mirror the efforts. Generally speaking, I expected much more daring moves: a mini-series, as Gucci is doing, a sitcom or thriller series in which all the actors wear the brand’s gear to be unveiled throughout the season with a chance for consumers to buy them. A partnership with Xbox to create a video game for young customers to purchase clothes. Imagine a brand like Off-White unveiling its collections on a platform like Xbox, or Versace’s latest collection debuting on Netflix as a seasonal show? They would be amazing formats for so many reasons: They’re new, replicable, engaging throughout the season and they might also encompass physical events when we will be able to host them. From such brands as Valentino, Versace and Fendi, for instance, I would expect a stroke of genius that would set a new pace for how fashion is presented.

Who broke through: There are not many that impressed me so much. Moschino with its puppet show did something fun. However, I do think this format does not really play a strategic role when it comes to the final customer as clothes on puppets are hard to really appreciate and desire. The Prada presentation, albeit sophisticated, looked too much like a show behind closed doors and too little engaging for the customer. I see this moment as a golden opportunity, as the [COVID-19] crisis is democratizing the industry. If you have a great idea this is the moment to use it and you’ll be listened, people will remember.

Alessandro Maria Ferreri said not every other company has the same financial resources as the LVMH brands. He sees these partnerships, especially at a smaller scale level, as a quest for disruption following in the footsteps of, for instance, Louis Vuitton tapping Virgil Abloh as its artistic director of men’s wear.
“If you are a big group, you can support your creative director or roster of collaborators by leveraging and consolidating or strengthening their work through other functions that encompass merchandising, marketing and communication,” he said. “Smaller-scale brands think they can follow a similar strategy but in the end, partly because those brands have less brand identity, partly because the creative types they tap lack the needed strength in terms of awareness, that approach is less successful,” he added, mentioning Blumarine as one such example.
To further prove his point, Ferreri underscored that at those Italian heritage brands the game of musical chairs for top-level management reflects the same test-and-try approach seen on the creative front. To be sure, since the QuattroR acquisition Trussardi has tapped two ceos, including Valentino and Prada alum Sebastian Suhl last month.
“These acquisitions to me look more like they’ve been made as financial operations tout court rather than as the outcome of
a serious evaluation of the opportunities those brands can offer,” he said. “These funds do not hold the right recipe…as they’re unable to carry out a technical due diligence beforehand.”
“I wouldn’t say that creative directors or chief executive officers are responsible for these missteps. On the contrary, owners and companies that overtake these brands should come in with a prepared recipe like when you’re up to cook something and you need to know all the ingredients,” he said.
Ferreri stressed these are often short- sighted approaches aimed at fostering buzz and hype around the brands, which would need more than that for a turnaround.
“If an executive is required to turn a company around following the tested and tried formula there is little chance to succeed…. They are somehow forced to implement short-term solutions because they are viewed as magicians who can turn things around quickly. On the contrary, I believe it would make more sense to implement approaches whose fruits can be harvested in, say, two years rather than a few months,” he said.