For those who don’t know who Roberto Cavalli is let me give you a brief history. In the early 1970s, he invented and patented a printing procedure on leather, and started creating patchworks of different materials. He debuted these techniques in Paris, immediately getting commissions from the likes of Hermès and Pierre Cardin. At age 32, he presented his first namesake collection at the Salon for Prêt-à-Porter in Paris. He brought it to the catwalks of the Sala Bianca of Palazzo Pitti in Florence, and later on those of Milano Collezioni, jeans made of printed denim, intarsia leathers, brocade, and wild prints. He then opened his first boutique in 1972 in Saint-Tropez.
Roberto Cavalli S.p.A. has named Paul Surridge its new creative director, continuing the recent trend of promoting behind-the-scene talent to a top spot, rather than hiring a star designer.
An English graduate of Central Saint Martins, Surridge is a relative unknown with long experience at luxury brands in New York, London, and Milan. After working for Calvin Klein in the 1990s, he joined Christopher Bailey at Burberry, and later worked under Raf Simons at Jil Sander as the head of menswear. From there he was the creative director of Z Zegna from 2011 to 2014, at which point he moved on to consult for Acne Studios’s menswear collections. In one of his few interviews available online, he named Jean Muir, a dressmaker primarily remembered for her jersey draping, as his designer icon.
With its emphasis on menswear, his CV doesn’t make him an obvious choice for Cavalli, with its high-glam, haute bohemian legacy. (Peter Dundas, who was named creative director after the departure of Roberto Cavalli, and designed just three collections before he exited last October, worked at the house for several years under its founder.) Nonetheless, says Gian Giacomo Ferraris, CEO of Roberto Cavalli: “I have worked with Paul, and I had the opportunity to appreciate his creative talent as well as his managerial abilities. We all believe that he is the ideal candidate to complete our management team and contribute to implement the ambitious development plans for Roberto Cavalli, which we have agreed with our stakeholders.”
The appointment is effective immediately and Surridge’s debut collection for the house, Spring 2018, will be shown in Milan in late September. In a release he said, “I am honored and proud to carry forward the legacy of this extraordinary Italian house. This is a unique opportunity to contribute a new chapter to the Roberto Cavalli universe, which positively celebrates the beauty, sensuality, and power of women. It is my intention to show the passion I share for the codes and vision on which Roberto Cavalli built his brand while celebrating the excellence of Italian craftsmanship.”