Maximilian Davis‘ energetic collection for Ferragamo was the best debut we’ve seen this Milan Fashion Week. It was the right balance of luxe and contemporary – something both old and new clients of the brand will appreciate. The 27-year-old, London-based designer seems to be just what this lately conservative, sleepy Italian house needed. The signifying grande geste of Davis’s new beginning included dropping the “Salvatore,” switching from a cursive font to something much more in line with contemporary design consensus, and laying claim to a new house color: a specific tone of arresting red. This was unmissable, dyed into the damp, rain-spattered sand that floored the courtyard and painted on the boards that backdropped the arcaded arches of this 17th-century Milanese seminary venue. The spot is currently being transformed into a hotel by the Ferragamo family’s Lungarno group. The red represented Davis’s own (now on hold) eponymous label, where it had echoed the flag of Trinidad and Tobago and his heritage. It also speaks to the heritage of Ferragamo, one of whose many famous archival shoes is a beaded red pump made for Marilyn Monroe by the founder in the 1950s. How about the clothes? Said Davis, “I’m developing new fabrications and introducing new silhouettes to the brand, and trying to understand what the younger client needs to make it a success.” There was a strong play for top-to-toe color in athletic-inspired bodysuits and technical field jackets and pants for men. One full look in red, a five-pocket pant and turtleneck, was beaded in homage to Monroe’s pumps. Inspired by the founder’s early incarnation as shoemaker to Hollywood, Davis riffed on sunset and sunrise via dégradé, bleeding-print fabrics that were themselves inspired by artist Rachel Harrison’s Sunset Series. Tailoring was presented in chunky, stolid shapes given twist and movement through the addition of sash details or the removal of sleeves. It was often realized in a delicately finished double-bonded crepe. There was a “playful and slightly perverse energy,” Davis suggested, in leather and suede short shorts. Accessory-wise, the house Gancini hardware was reflected in the heel of a handsome new strappy sandal and the bracelet-like hardware of a small clutch bag. It was also traced in the neckline of a regal charcoal evening dress. Davis spoke of “reenergizing” Ferragamo. The applause that greeted this first installment of his tenure suggested he’s on a good path.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
Maximilian Davis – remember this name, as I’m sure it’s going to be big in the next couple of seasons. Fashion East’s newcomer, Davis has stepped onto Lulu Kennedy’s platform with the confidence and energy of someone who’s certain that the time is right for what he has to say. “Black people must be in charge of their narrative. I see them in such a regal way. I do elegant clothing and tailoring. I want to take people out of the idea of wearing streetwear because that’s not how I see them,” he told Vogue on a Zoom call. “That’s a message I want to put across, and that’s what I want to stick with for the duration of my career.” It’s uncommon, to say the least of it, to see a young designer with the forethought to articulate such a long-term purpose. He spelled out why. “Race has been such an issue for years, but I feel that only now are people wanting to learn more about it and are willing to support different races and try to make this world a better place. And I think now is the time to share my vision, to help support and educate people.” His debut collection, entitled “J’ouvert“, is an ambitious mission to bring sophisticated modern fashion to the fore, while simultaneously uplifting the history of Trinidadian Carnival that is intrinsic to his identity. “My grandmother passed away this year,” he explained. “She came to England from Trinidad and became a nurse. We went there every year. For me as a child, I saw Carnival as one big celebration, but I wanted to look more into the reason we were celebrating. I discovered that in Trinidad enslaved people were set free in 1834, but before that, they had performed for their slave masters. Carnival came out of their liberation. I wanted to put that imagery into my tailoring, comparing 19th-century history with the cutout garments that are worn at Carnival today.” Look one, a jacket that fuses a white frock coat and waistcoat worn over a miniskirt with a slashed waist, crisply encapsulates exactly that. Further on, halter-neck tops echo “aristocrat’s cravats” – an idea brought into the present from his research about Jean-Baptiste Belley, a Black Caribbean activist who was involved with the French Revolution. The aim and the energy, he laughed, overtook him as he made slashed calfskin dresses, an elegant black crepe fishtail gown, and a hip-slung knee-length skirt, decorated with goose biot feathers. He worked on menswear: harlequin prints and a tuxedo that honors his father. “My Dad wears suits every day. When he went to Trinidad, he had these suits that were oversized, loose, and easy. I think there’s a place for tailoring for men that is relaxed, refined but easy to wear.” All this was achieved “mostly in my bedroom, in lockdown,” Davis concluded. But he hasn’t been alone. The launch of Maximilian has been backed up by photographer Rafael Pavarotti, the super-stylist Ibrahim Kamara, and film director Akinola Davies, with music by Suutoo. Against the background of Black Lives Matter, this dauntless new British cohort of talent is making sure that progress in fashion is ever-expandingly real. As for me, he Davis can land at Mugler right away.