Ferdinando Verderi, founding partner and creative director of New York agency Johannes Leonardo, attracts fellow disruptive thinkers with his tendency to push boundaries and break norms.
“It took a long time for the fashion and luxury industry to be ready to understand this type of [digital] behavior,” he said. “That being said, I haven’t had particular challenges in convincing clients, because I feel like when a client comes to me for a certain type of work, they’re predisposed to a sort of disruptive thinking.”
His agency’s past work includes an Alexander Wang and Adidas Originals partnership in 2016, which involved streetwear drops around New York City happening in unmarked garbage bags, as well as the relaunch of Originals’ Superstar shoe. Verderi joined the Glossy Podcast to talk about the definition of luxury today, social currency and how brands have become slaves to their own social media scheduled posts.
Edited highlights, below.
The clash between luxury’s exclusivity and digital’s transparency
Verderi said that, since his agency opened in 2007, fashion and luxury brands have been grappling with the dissonance between the perceived value in luxury’s exclusivity and today’s emphasis on accessibility and transparency, thanks to the open door of social media.
“The whole idea of luxury and exclusivity is based on a certain distance. The idea of the digital world is based on reducing that distance. You feel like you intimately know everyone you follow,” he said. “It’s a big dichotomy that needs to be sorted, between that distance and that approachability. There are solutions for it, but the idea of luxury is definitely changing.”
Part of the solution lies in brands staying true to their community
Verderi said every brand has a personality and a point of view that can shape its voice in media today. Every brand also has a community they should be appealing to.
“You have to live by the rule of one [community]; you have to behave like one, which is tough. To be a community, you have to have a common belief,” he said. “Every brand is a community, they just need to be honest about which community they are. There’s a gut-check of, ‘What are we really about?’ that doesn’t happen as often as it should.”
The definition of success is changing, too
Verderi hasn’t given up on print media, he just thinks the way print media looks at success should change. Regardless of what medium brands are working in, success shouldn’t always have the same definition.
“The way we work is never about a singular asset, it’s about the path of the brand. Sometimes success is sales. Sometimes success is a better understanding of a point of view. Sometimes success is an emotional thing that changes perception,” he said. “It’s hard to quantify.”
When it comes to content, brands have fallen into a trap
Verderi doesn’t subscribe to the thinking that brands need to be constantly talking in order to not be forgotten. “We’re overwhelmed with meaningless messages,” he said, and brands should consider the value in being silent every once in awhile. Constant posting is a self-generating cycle.
“It’s a slave of itself,” he said. “That media consumption is something that brands have imposed on themselves. But if they’re not going to publish, they still need a plan.”