A Reborn Ferragamo Plans For Growth in China

After 12 months off, Salvatore Ferragamo finally returns to live shows by gathering its all-star audience in Milan at the historic Rotonda Della Besana. Familiar faces, including Brooke Shields, her daughter Grier Henchy, actor Ashton Sanders, the Chinese film director and producer Yi Zhou, actor Ross Butler, and actress Ashley Benson were all reunited at the circular location to enjoy the brand’s Spring-Summer 2022 collection.

The show’s experience was heightened by its curated interior, allowing the audience to become fully immersed in the presentation. And amid the classic architecture, people could enjoy the display from every angle.

And this physical show did not fail to connect with Chinese audiences. By livestreaming the new presentation on its website and leaning on celebrity influence and the broad reach of the domestic media, the brand managed to positively engage with local netizens, who expressed their love for the collection’s many looks.

Many changes took place at the top level of Ferragamo this year, such as the exit of its CEO and creative director (the addition of Marco Gobetti as the company’s chief executive next year is also hotly anticipated.) Here, Jing Daily takes a closer look at the Italian house’s latest creative direction, its strategy for China, and what the brand’s future might resemble.

Reconnecting with a post-pandemic audience 

“Reconnection” was the theme in Ferragamo’s Spring-Summer 2022 collection. By excavating its archives and bringing its 1970s floral foulards and tiger stripe jacquard back to the catwalk, the 94-year-old brand reconnected with its DNA. Meanwhile, in reviving its iconic shoes, the Vara and Varina, in new colorways and materials, it hopes to reconnect with its cultured consumers. And lastly, by proposing clean and relaxed yet crafty silhouettes, the Maison seemed to reconnect to a post-pandemic audience’s needs.

Pieces from Ferragamo’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection. Photo: Courtesy of Ferragamo

This summer-minded collection, characterized by Italian rainbow palettes, delighted most netizens. Fashion KOL @Elephant Kingdom praised the collection’s minimalist, utilitarian designs and comfy colorways, highlighting the brand’s exquisite finesse. And @Sachomme was pleasantly surprised by the label’s presentation of clean shapes.

Since China emerged from the pandemic, domestic shoppers have been on Ferragamo’s radar via new pop-up initiatives. This March, the Florence-based Maison unveiled a Gancini inspired pop-up truck in Hong Kong that served typical Cantonese “ice room” food and drinks. That same month, it also opened a popup at the SKP Mall in Beijing to launch its new Silk Capsule Spring-Summer 2021 collection.

In March, Ferragamo created a Gancini pop-up truck inspired by traditional Cantonese cafés called Bing Sutt 冰室. Photo: Courtesy of Ferragamo

And recently, inside Asia’s hottest travel and shopping destination — Hainan, Sanya — the brand inaugurated another pop-up store that led visitors on a curated journey about the house’s silk heritage. The fully immersive experiences, embedded with brand values and Chinese culture, resonated well with local consumers, especially younger ones. One can see that the label is building a solid pathway to ensure
long-term success in China.

Winning over Gen-Z consumers through leveraging young faces

Despite the pandemic, Ferragamo was still able to connect with Chinese consumers by leveraging favored Gen-Z icons. The new show, which was livestreamed through the brand’s website and promoted on local social media platforms, also was amplified by its global brand ambassador, Jelly Lin, and friend of the house Menglong Yu. Combined, they enjoy over 30 million followers.

By asking these two celebrities to share a brand livestream invitation with their followers, The Ferragamo show quickly became a hotly-anticipated event. The influence of local stars in China is indisputable, and their posts have received an impressive number of engagement, driving significant traffic to the brand’s livestream. Many fans couldn’t wait to see the show, with one comment stating, “Excited to watch the Ferragamo’s fashion catwalk with Jelly Lin.”

By tapping Lin as its global brand ambassador, Ferragamo has clearly paid close attention to Gen-Z buyer needs in China. Additionally, the season’s minimalist aesthetic and small handbags designs show Ferragamo is moving closer towards the youth clientele’s aesthetic. In fact, accessories like these have proven to be a gateway for young luxury spenders.

The highly anticipated Ferragamo transformation is on the way to China

Ferragamo is going through a leadership shakeup, and it’s likely a good one. With creative director Paul Andrew’s exit from the company and CEO Micaela Le Divelec Lemmi departing, the Italian shoemaker
welcomes Marco Gobbetti to the house as CEO at the beginning of 2022 (after he gets released from contractual obligations as CEO of Burberry).

After helming LVMH brands (Celine and Givenchy) for 13 years and serving at Burberry for five years, Gobbetti has become known for his ability to revitalize brands and turn them into global powerhouses. Under his tenure, the house should accelerate its digital innovation, upgrade its online and offline retail formats, and generally resonate better with young spenders.

Ever announcing Gobbetti as its new CEO, the brand has seemingly confidently returned to the spotlight with bold moves. Recently, it revealed a new monogram with the brand’s initials, SF (although it will continue to use its signature Gancini logo as well.)

Meanwhile, the Florence-based label is also starting to show positive signs of recovery. Its retail revenue increased by 83 percent during the second quarter, with four areas, including Greater China, exceeding their pre-COVID-19 levels. Under Gobbetti’s tenure, further growth in China — a market familiar to Gobbetti — is expected.

In China, the brand can gain exposure to a consumer cohort that will account for over 50 percent of all luxury shoppers by 2025), which is why Ferragamo is already beginning to prepare for this new era.