Paul Surridge, the second successor since Roberto Cavalli stepped down from his eponymous label, is a relative unknown in the industry. However, there were high expectations for his performance due to his pedigree accumulated from working at brands like Calvin Klein, Burberry, and Z Zegna, and the fact that bringing in under-the-radar designers had worked so well for similar brands like Gucci. Surridge hails from the menswear world, and landed the coveted position by presenting what he explains as a “mood and a strategy” to make the brand relevant again.
For Surridge, this meant imprinting his own creative outlook onto the brand straightaway, and dispensing with Cavalli’s signature aesthetic: luxuriously tacky, haute hippie, animal-print everything (although he did favor the zebra stripe). His debut collection was a whisper whereas his predecessor’s work was a shout. It was a calm sort of collection, maybe something you’d expect from Jil Sander or Hermès, and the fact that it was made in the name of Cavalli is something of a shock.
The reason for Surridge’s total makeover of the brand aesthetic has everything to do with how deeply the designer is committed to originality, and his great dislike of copycat fashion.
The reason for Surridge’s total makeover of the brand aesthetic has everything to do with how deeply the designer is committed to originality, and his great dislike of copycat fashion. Another focus was providing clothes for an evolved woman – one who prefers the boardroom to the green room. Truly, some of the elements he incorporated seemed distinctly new and fresh, like leather harnesses strapped on off-shoulder cardigans and that off-kilter pairing of a twisted nude body suit and a white bustier-topped crocodile jumper with shorts.
We also spied tremendous red carpet potential in the form of sporty beaded gowns in ivory, navy, and black. The only sticking point here is that if Surridge really wanted to stake his own corner of House Cavalli, he should have done away with animal print entirely – done a complete refresh, in effect. Why bother keeping one toe in stagnant water? The abstract zebra didn’t really strike one as all that new or thought-provoking, but the rest of the collection was certainly something to chew over.