Three designers will be making top-tier debuts at Milan Fashion Week this season. Marco de Vincenzo has been installed at Etro. Rhuigi Villasenor, the founder of the Los Angeles cult label Rhude, has been named creative director at Bally. And at Salvatore Ferragamo, the Florentine luxury leather goods house, Maximilian Davis has taken the top job.
Initially some eyebrows were raised when Ferragamo announced the appointment of a nascent talent in March — and at a brand better known for its bags than for boundary pushing. Mr. Davis, 27, dropped out of the LVMH Prize young designer competition to take the new position at Ferragamo.
The family-controlled company, whose shoes and bags were once favored by the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe and appeals largely to a conservative crowd, has struggled in recent years to attract younger luxury shoppers. And that is where Mr. Davis could be especially valuable. Marco Gobbetti, formerly of Burberry and now the chief executive at Ferragamo, called him “one of the most brilliant talents of his generation.”
Here, then, are five things you should know about Maximilian Davis ahead of his debut collection on Sept. 24.
He is Black, British and proud of his Caribbean roots.
Born into a close-knit Trinidadian-Jamaican family in Manchester, in the north of England, Mr. Davis has fashion in his blood. His mother and sister were models, his father studied fashion design, and his grandmother taught him how to use her sewing machine at the age of 6. A graduate of the London College of Fashion, he assisted Grace Wales Bonner before starting his Maximilian label in 2020, encouraged by his friend Mowalola Ogunlesi (a former head designer for Yeezy Gap).
Mr. Davis showed his Maximilian collection at the Fashion East showcase during London Fashion Week in September 2021. Credit…Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Maximilian made its spring 2021 debut as part of Fashion East, the British incubator that helped to kick-start the careers of designers like Kim Jones, Jonathan Anderson and Simone Rocha. Mr. Davis told British Vogue that his focus with that first collection was to broaden perceptions and narratives of Black identity.
“When you think about who wears streetwear, you think of Black people,” he said. “When you think of tailoring, you think of white people. It doesn’t make any sense. My dad wore a suit to work every day. It needs to change.”
He has a loyal band of famous fans.
Within months, his sexy separates and sheer harlequin prints were popping up on celebrities. Rihanna wore Maximilian looks in a Dazed magazine feature and on dinner dates with ASAP Rocky. Dua Lipa wore a bespoke strapless creation to the Fashion Awards in London, as well as in a music video. And Kim Kardashian wore his deep-V scuba bodysuit with baggy jeans for her first Instagram post after splitting up with Kanye West.
Mr. Davis’s fans — and friends — also include influential creative collaborators, like the photographer Rafael Pavarotti and the stylist and editor Ibrahim Kamara.
He has a broad batch of style icons.
Mr. Davis has said that when he was 4 or 5, his style icon was the R&B singer Usher. Later, as he made his foray into the fashion world, he idolized Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, the twin sisters behind the Row. Another source of inspiration? London club culture, of which Mr. Davis has long been a fixture. And his grandmother, who died in 2020, and in particular her “Sunday best” outfits worn for church.
He gave up his label for Ferragamo.
Mr. Davis has described his design aesthetic as “Black elegance,” encapsulated in slinky dresses in leather or devoré velvet and sheer floor-skimming evening gowns, cashmere coats and a no-nonsense silhouette. By early 2022, with four collections under his belt, Maximilian was gaining momentum, stocked by retailers like MatchesFashion and Net-a-Porter.
“That clarity, confidence and level of execution sent people sideways,” said Lulu Kennedy, the Fashion East founder, who added that she was “super-proud” to have supported him at the start of “what was going to be a major career.”
Since his appointment at Ferragamo in March, his own label has been on hiatus.
His hire has made waves.
Against the backdrop of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, and amid racist incidents in the fashion industry, the fashion world has vowed it would improve representation. The change may be slow, but Mr. Davis’s hiring is significant.
“I am deeply honored to be joining Ferragamo and grateful for the opportunity to build on the rich and profound heritage of the house,” he said after his appointment had been announced. (He hasn’t said much more since then, and Ferragamo declined to make him available for comment for this article.)
“I feel honored that people want to see what I could do for such a respected brand,” he told Time magazine.