A step and a curve away from Milan’s famed Duomo sits a block-long arched facade that, in the evening, is uplit with rich scarlet illumination. But you don’t need to see the red light and logos to know almost immediately: this place belongs to Ferrari. The Prancing Horse rears in the windows, and the stylized slab serif font bearing the automaker’s name is lettered across vermillion awnings.
Yet this frontage is not an exotic car showroom. Instead, it’s Ferrari’s second store dedicated to its new ready-to-wear clothing line. The brand premiered its sideline into fashion in June, 2021, with an enormous catwalk presentation held in the company’s home base of Maranello, Italy. Its first store opened in Maranello soon thereafter. A third location along Los Angeles’s Rodeo Drive will see its ribbon-cutting this fall; a renovation of a Miami property will follow, and many more are planned for after that.
Ferrari’s automobile division is hugely profitable, to the tune of over half a billion dollars in 2020. And the brand remains among the world’s most iconic because of how carefully Ferrari nurtures that Prancing Horse. So all of this prompts the question: What’s this now? And, why? In Milan, Rocco Iannone—the new line’s creative director, whose background includes stints at Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Pal Zileri—delineates the label’s thinking.
As he describes it, the thought process is straightforward. “Ferrari has recently been ranked as the strongest brand in the world,” he tells me. (By at least one metric, this is true: Iannone is referring to a ranking produced by a research group called Brandirectory. In 2021, WeChat beat out Ferrari for the top spot, but Ferrari was the winner in 2020 and 2019.) Yet while tons of people know about Ferrari—rooting on the company’s Scuderia Ferrari F1 team, lusting after their street cars, making rap songs about owning said cars—not as many can, shall we say, engage with the brand’s goods. “With this in mind, we decided to increase our awareness with younger generations, to enlarge our fan base through a diversification strategy, and to involve as many people as possible,” Iannone says. That diversification includes Ferrari theme parks, and focuses on new F1 races like the one next year in Miami. And clothes. “One doesn’t need to own a Ferrari,” he says. “It’s more for people who love the brand and want to be involved in some way.”
Ferrari, like other supercar purveyors, has long produced merch. Iannone is quick to note that this isn’t that. Instead, it’s a fully Ferrari-driven high-end line running parallel to the pillar product. And while Ferrari’s designers know exactly how a confluence of swooping lines can turn the everyday into something profoundly exotic, shifting from plain merch to true premium ready-to-wear is a different kind of task.
“We are moving from a merchandising approach to one of design. To do this, you must develop the design with legitimacy,” says Iannone. “We came to understand just how disappointing our merchandising offer was; it was difficult for clients, and it became difficult for us, to recognize the Ferrari dream in what we were selling.”
June’s unveiling held a full year’s worth of retail options. Iannone notes that Ferrari will show its collection (both womenswear and menswear, much of it unisex) just once annually, with “drops” occurring six times throughout the following year, building off of what was seen on the runway. The debut’s focus was on separates, with a sizable quotient of outerwear.
And it all looks—of course—like Ferrari, if occasionally in more ineffable ways. “I’ve approached this from two different creative angles,” says Iannone. “The first one is what I call an anatomical creative angle. This is what’s related to the aesthetic of our cars. The surfaces, the lines, the sinew. It’s very interesting to understand the intent of our car designers, and I spoke with them a lot. The human body is an inspiration for Ferrari’s automobiles. Our proportions, our waists, our hips, our curves. It’s our anatomy. The second is what I call iconography, and how we manifest ourselves through our logos and visuals, from 75 years worth of imagery.”
The bodily elements can be seen in curving seams on trench coats and muscle-tracing intarsia details on sweaters; the iconic in a full smattering of Prancing Horses, both embroidered and affixed as metal accents, akin to how they might be found on the hood or the trunk of a car. “I’m going to use the horse less next year,” Iannone admits.
“There are three steps that define this endeavor,” he adds. “The first one, you see. It’s the expression of the Ferrari lifestyle. This is done, I hope. The second step is to broaden the offering. There will be more of a focus on accessories, for example, in the next collection. Then, its about bringing in more creatives to the community, as the community expands.’
The task seems tall, but the quality is there. Iannone insisted on working with high-end Italian producers and textiles; some pieces run north of 4,000 Euros as a result. The reception thus far has been positive. The Milanese store held an official opening party during Milan Fashion Week that was packed to the rafters (or, as close to the rafters as possible).
But can it sustain itself in the long run? Iannone mentions that Hermès and Louis Vuitton began as equestrian gear and luggage companies, respectively. However, it’s a little easier to bridge a love of travel into clothing than it is a $250,000 whip.
Trend watchers have witnessed this sort of ideation before. “Many brands in the sporting world are looking to expand beyond their core, and fashion is often atop the list for next-step brand extensions,” says Roger Tredre, former Editor-in-Chief of WGSN, a trend forecasting company. “In the past, these kinds of extensions haven’t tended to work because the product has been poorly executed. At first sight of Ferrari’s line, and taking into account the scale of their investment in design, this project may break through these barriers.” Tredre will add that “brands attempting to expand their remit need to be patient. Collections may need to be refined, bestsellers identified, and marketing campaigns tweaked. We live in an impatient age. To operate in the luxury fashion arena, you need to have a longer term perspective and a certain humility.”
This bodes well for Ferrari. Iannone says the company’s full plan for establishing its expansion is blocked for ten years; in Los Angeles, the Rodeo Drive opening is actually a temporary yet long term commitment, as the company aims to build a “permanent” home nearby in a few years time. That kind of composure can be felt in the clothes, too: a ripstop nylon jacket, which glints with a reddish afterburn glow, is clearly well considered from its material to its functionality. It feels like something you might wear behind the wheel of your vintage Testarossa—or just out on a coffee run down the block.
“We want to engage people, step by step,” concludes Iannone. “With time, we want to spread awareness about what we are doing and what we would like to express. And, really, that everything at Ferrari really has… well, a very human touch.”