Cover-up at Cavalli as new creative director eschews its ‘very Mediterranean vibe’ and designs for the global customer

Less ‘rock chick’, more ‘respectful’ is the message from Paul Surridge as he moves Italian label away from red carpet dressing and into classy day wear – clothes for work, knitwear and summer coats

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 8:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 October, 2017, 8:17pm

Roberto Cavalli is renowned for his decadent glamazon dresses, printed and embroidered with fierce creatures – but that’s all about to change.

The new creative director of the fashion label he founded, Paul Surridge, is taking things in a new direction, and will take his debut collection for Cavalli to Beijing at the beginning of November.

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Under Surridge the Italian brand, known for red carpet and event dressing, has moved into day wear. There are clothes here to wear to work, as well as knitwear and summer coats, although Surridge is not discounting the reappearance of the boho look in future collections.

In recent seasons, the Florentine house has been suffering as people’s lifestyles have changed, and Cavalli cannot rely solely on a customer that has a private driver and a helicopter at her disposal.

Surridge, a former menswear designer with an extraordinary level of experience at many of the major fashion brands, has been brought in to stop the rot.

“The classic scenario was the woman boarding a yacht for an evening cocktail wearing a Cavalli dress, but if it’s chilly she’s not wearing a Cavalli sweater because we have not been putting it into our stores,” Surridge says.

He had eight weeks to prepare a fresh vision for the brand, and although the “rock chick” is still part of it, changes had to be made.

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There is now a sportier vibe to the racer back tank silhouettes of dresses and jumpsuits. The evening dresses are no more revealing than what a woman would display in a yoga class. “To me it felt more respectful,” he says.

The long, stretchy knit dresses are more streamlined, and the whole lot was shown with flat shoes, although he admitted there were glamorous heels back in the showroom.

Everything suggested this would be a collection for a woman on the run and for a woman who didn’t want to walk around with half her body on display at a cocktail party.

Surridge dismisses this look as “a very Mediterranean vibe” and not right for the global customer today.

British-born but Milan-based, Surridge is an unlikely successor to Peter Dundas at Cavalli. However, the brand was not performing and areas like accessories and menswear had little or no presence and, therefore, lots of potential.

In a corporate shake-up in July 2016, Gian Giacomo Ferraris, former CEO of Versace, was brought in. He called Surridge, who at the time was creative consultant with Stockholm-based luxury fashion house Acne Studios. They had worked together at Jil Sander, where Surridge was design director for menswear under Raf Simons’ leadership, a role he left to join Z Zegna in 2011.

Surridge, who graduated in womenswear from Central Saint Martins in London and had also previously worked at Burberry, is regarded as fair, direct and good at delegating. He says the Cavalli business now needs “players and not complicated characters”.

He met the brand’s founder when he signed his contract as creative director, and Cavalli sat front row at his show in Milan last month. “To have his endorsement was incredible and generous,” Surridge says.

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It’s now Surridge’s job to make the Cavalli brand appeal to a younger generation, and he clearly has the founder’s support.

A selection of designs from the spring-summer 2018 collection will be available for pre-order at Roberto Cavalli, Beijing from November 3