Gianfranco Ferré Foundation /

Notes

Accessory

“Fundamental complement to the dress, decorative element for the body: as such, the accessory has always sparked in me a keen creative attention, a special and ever stronger passion. For me the connection between accessory and article of clothing is indispensable, indissoluble. They arise from a common inspiration, live in harmony from the very moment I begin envisioning the collection. They reflect the same influences, although in different forms, through different materials. Mostly, they capture the same idea of quality and uniqueness, elegance and beauty. Dress and accessory: one mirrors the other, one serves in understanding the other. Better still, the latter is a tool for interpreting the former, for reading the garment from a subjective viewpoint. Allowing anyone to easily identify with a style while at the same time giving it a personal slant.”

Archive

“I have no use for nostalgia, it couldn’t be farther from my way of being and creating. History, rather, plays multiple roles, serves as education/training, example, ground for analysis and comparison with past experiences and achievements from which to then embark on new creative paths. Thus the archive is a neverending story directed toward the future. A mosaic taking shape day by day, consisting of pieces in each case essential. More or less, that’s how I feel about my archive: a collection of the most important creations – approximately 6,000 in all – drawn from the many I have designed over the span of thirty years: prêt-à-porter, High Fashion, menswear, accessories… Every dress, I repeat, is a piece in the mosaic. And for every dress there’s a reason behind its presence in the archive. Reasons of an emotional and/or technical nature: a dream, a memory, an influence absolutely fundamental to my creative imagination; or perhaps a long-sought shade of color, a material’s unique new expression, an exquisite working process, an exceptionally daring cut. This archive holds a number of experiences that serve me in moving forward, in continuing to invent and to improve all the more. It is remembrance for the future.”

China

“Magic and reality: over the span of years that I spent in India, I got to know the East in depth, had the chance to visit places very much off the beaten track. I first went to China in 1973, at the height of the Cultural Revolution; traveled to Vietnam and Laos soon afterward, once the war came to a close, and also to remote regions of northern India, to Bangladesh right after the split from Pakistan… I have seen the effort of everyday living, the ritual pace of certain habits and customs, the imperturbability of particular rhythms, as well as the implacability of catastrophic natural events and the people’s resignation in the face of the same. While the vast quantity of emotions and influences the East bestowed upon me later emerged as a dictionary of elegance, beauty and refinement, the true key for reading all this with perfect coherence is the principle of simplicity, first and foremost the identification of shapes and how to construct them. Seeing Indian women in their saris – yet also Chinese women in loose jacket and pants, Laotian and Vietnamese ones in sarongs – perform the humblest and heaviest of tasks all while preserving an utmost regalness of bearing taught me what I call ‘sense of the body,’ i.e. cognizance of its physical mass and motion as fundamental points of reference that I accord an absolutely top priority in the process of constructing a garment. This lesson imparted by the East has enabled me to reassess and refine the principle of luxury and opulence, eliminating all superfluous frills and fuss. And this mal d’Oriente comes through equally in my fondness for warm, distinct colors and for pure materials. India’s ocher, orange and fuchsia hues, crisp silks… Imperial China’s rich red tones and brocades…

“For me China has the ‘flavor’ of the iron pavilions I visited at the international Canton Fair twenty-five years ago, the blue&pink streaked sky, the scurrying figures dressed in dark blue, gray, army green. Pictures still alive in my mind, along with the eternal image of a courtly China, sumptuous and magnificently red, a fantastic once-upon-a-time China I have read about in books, which captured my imagination and drew me into the heart of the East. Then there’s present-day China, which I first became familiar with only a few years ago: the momentousness of a country that never ceases to amaze with its energy, potential, enthusiasm. A country young and new, busy accepting and multiplying by a hundred the technological challenges of the West….”

Christian Dior

“My very first undertaking at Dior lay in grasping the spirit, so as to comprehend to what extent I could make it my own, along what horizons I could effectively operate. In this, I got a hand from my sense of determination, yet also from a series of deep affinities with Monsieur Dior in the conception of elegance: for example, in the perception of the female silhouette, quick and sharp even when animating emphatic volumes. In the special fondness for gorgeous, noble materials. In the utmost attention to the dress’s cut and construction. In the accent forever on luxury and refinement. A singular and fortunate community of ideas – I’d say passions too – which has made my adventure quite extraordinary, this challenging endeavor infinitely enthralling.

“So, at Dior, for eight years I lived and breathed the lesson of the atelier: total focus on the dress in every single aspect, aggregate of various and unfailingly exceptional proficiencies. And then utmost discretion, customized service. From initial sketch to final creation, Haute Couture fashions never leave the atelier. Each dress is a separate entity, with a distinct backstory. Even each detail, each finishing touch, each seam represents a unique element in that expressly executed for the individual client on the basis of personal request and figure. This state of affairs puts the creator in the condition to interact closely, step by step, with the experience and expertise of his assistants. And it is here, I believe, that the true magic of couture comes through: in the sum of supreme skills of the many artisans to which the couturier must give an imprint, a direction, a sense of fulfillment, somewhat like an orchestra conductor on the podium…”

Colors and feelings – The colors of feelings

“In my creative vision, along with shape and material, color represents a category which right from the preliminary sketch is intrinsic to the basic idea of the dress. There’s no separating one from the other…”

“I dream strong emotions, total encounters with water, wind, sand.”

“I envision the dress as a splotch of color, a flash of light.”

“Even more than material and shape, colors are for me the key-tool for expressing and conveying emotions, sharing them with those who choose my clothes…

“For it’s perfectly natural that each of us reflects his/her personality and tastes in the color of an item of clothing, his/her mood of the moment, aspirations, desire to look and feel good…”

“Along an ideal horizon embracing mysterious landscapes, distant cultures and periods, in my collections a wealth of nuances follow, alternate and intermingle with one another: dazzling metal tones, pale jade greens, intense gemstone colors, gorgeous brights, soft daybreak and floral hues, rich equatorial foliage shades and fabulous animal prints…”

“My imagination always operates in technicolor.”

“There are no colors I do not love. If anything, there are loves of a lifetime and loves of a season.”

But every year my collections also include entirely new shades and hues…”

They are tones and nuances that form, in turn, a more multifaceted language, variously expressing energy, poetry, magic, seduction, purity, opulence…”

“Colors represent an essential part of my style lexicon. All while wonderfully coherent, they take on an endless variety of modulations season after season…”

“Identifying my all-time favorite colors isn’t difficult: white, black, red, neutrals, gray, gold…”

Details

“Fully agreeing with Le Corbusier – who said ‘God is in the details’ – I have always devoted great attention to both the structural variety (e.g. sartorial stitchings/seams) and the decorative kind (embroideries, jewel-buttons). In reality, what interest me most are the details that create an effect, give a unique and special plus to even the simplest of items, ultraclean of cut and construction. Thus the detail that makes the difference is often an actual part of the garment: the collar, the cuffs, the belt, a bow. Which I love to exaggerate, emphasize, so throwing off nicely the sense of symmetry and balance of the whole.”

Dressing women, dressing men

“Today’s man, today’s woman. Equal as to sense of freedom, independence of character, autonomy in expressing personal tastes. Profoundly different too. In my clothes I love underscoring the differences that make them opposite and/or complementary to one another. I love the softness of the female figure, love accenting and revealing its shapeliness to award seduction a modern force. Meanwhile to men I concede the luxury of disobedience, a confident ease in rereading the consolidated principle of the uniform-suit…”

Elegance

“I quote opinions more authoritative than my own:

Elegance is only a symbol of the aristocratic superiority of the spirit. (Charles Baudelaire)

Elegance does not exist until it reaches the street. Elegance that remains in the couturier’s salon has no greater meaning than a costume ball. (Coco Chanel)

The only way to attain true elegance is through personality. (Eduardo de Filippo)

Culture is like elegance, only the invisible type is good. (Indro Montanelli)

“I myself add: elegance is absolutely innate. It’s an expression of harmony, a direct correspondence between thought and feeling. A way of coming forth to others. A woman who is fat or who’s in a hurry can be elegant. I’ve seen extremely poor Indian women who were extraordinarily elegant as to line of neck, design of face, choice of colors and fabrics, bearing. What make a woman elegant are a grace of motion, a feel for proportions.”

Emotion

“In the beginning there is emotion, a sensation, a feeling. Every dress of mine captures one, a hundred, a thousand, woven into a single instance of magic I let myself succumb to. It’s true, all my dresses are progeny of a noble male parent – the design project, which is logic and method, rational operation on shape, daring elaboration of materials. But they also have a passionate maternal one: the electrifying flash of love at first sight upon discovering an unfamiliar landscape, the enchantment of embarking on a flight of fancy in a ‘faroff’ land, a deep and indelible impression in remembering the grace of a gesture, the dazzle of a smile or a look, the scent of a garden, the rustle of a piece of cloth.

“The emotions form layers, overlap, intersect and penetrate one another. So, I don’t experience my fashions as separate entities but as pieces in a mosaic, fine threads in a tapestry. As elements in a global style project, steps in a process of professional – and personal – growth and development.

“The emotions follow a unique ebb and flow. When I see my creations again after a span of time they always work a charm on me, though somehow differently. While still feeling they are mine, I experience the clothes in a different light. They spark in me other emotions, reawaken in me fond memories, yet also excite whole new sensations. The legs in a journey that has come to a close may map out the itineraries of a new voyage where influences and impressions intermingle afresh to define an unprecedented horizon. Before which I myself feel a great sense of awe, the keenest curiosity, an immense delight in discovery.

“The emotions coming from a dress are born to be shared. To be enjoyed by everyone, from the very moment the dress debuts on the catwalk, is interpreted through photographs, shown in display windows, worn on the street. This is another reason why I have always felt that the truest manifestation of my work should not be shut in my own personal strongbox. If then the dress and the realm of emotions it arouses end up in a museum, at that point they really do belong to everyone. They become part of a collective patrimony and potential tool of common enrichment and growth.

“The emotions must stay vibrantly alive. Even if on display in a museum, I wish that every dress of mine be understood as a product of our age equally fulfilling human desires and concrete functions (social, cultural, everyday). That’s why I’m proud the creations I have donated to the Pitti Palace Costume Gallery can continue to talk about life…”

Fashion and Architecture

“The starting point for the creation of a garment – always the result of a construction process, a specific design project – is a rational elaboration of shapes. This is the principle behind my idea of fashion. Dressing a woman or a man thus means reasoning in terms of lines, volumes, proportions. Just like in ‘dressing’ a physical space. The essential difference lies in the fact that for a fashion designer the primary reference is the human body, i.e. an entity in motion to be considered as such right from the preliminary sketch. In both situations moreover the emotional factor – intrinsic to fantasy and sensibility – cannot and must not be missing.”

“I think we must always seek a balance between ‘cerebral’ approach to the dress (result of a rational creative process) and emotional one (expression of pure fantasy). This holds for the fashion designer and equally for prospective consumers, who see and live clothing as object of clear practical use yet also with great potential re feelings, sensations, inspirations. So, the dress has a strong functional connotation. It’s to throw easily into a suitcase if necessary, though not throw away after a mere season; it’s to wear with versatility, maybe on the quick, yet always in a reasonable and realistic way; it’s to appreciate for its fine quality, beauty as well as comfort. And then there’s the garment’s expressive value, which – in a world of widespread commonality – has the power to give every man and woman a mark of distinction, afford substance and visibility to individual dreams and desires, emotions and impulses. Clothes are a tool we all use to establish a close interconnect between inner life and real life.”

“My passion for contemporary figurative arts is determinant. What fascinates me is the energy, the expressive potential – intense, vibrant, immediate. I think the key to read the entire age we’re living in – its multiple expressions, lifestyles, forms of thought, art and culture – is a time/space concept quite different from the past in that keenly centered on speed, motion, dynamism. These same values underlie the fast pace of everyday life, with constant travel, real-time communication, ultrarapid information flows, ever quicker production rhythms. So much so that in some respects we have shifted into a new time/space dimension. This, I believe, is one of the primary codes of our age and as such inevitably permeates fashion too. My style surely has a strong sense of motion, it marks the design right from the preliminary sketch: a few quick lines on a sheet of paper that already capture an immediate, direct – natural and necessary, I’d say – rapport with the human body and its physiological need to move, in synch with what covers, protects and adorns it. This sense of speed, swift motion, is clearly there also in the luxury product, in the exclusive and original dress that’s nevertheless for a free, agile (even if aware, pondered) type of use.”

Fashion and Art

“My interest in figurative arts dates prior to my work. Let’s say it’s somewhat part of my roots, a natural extension of my upbringing, for I grew up in a family where a deep love and appreciation for things of beauty, for quality, for art and music and books – for elegance of dress and home, for fine dining too – were intrinsic. Beyond this, however, it’s totally true that in the course of my profession I have drawn wonderful experiences and emotions from artists of all periods and latitudes: the delicate severity of Utamaro’s faces, vivid energetic colors à la Warhol, the avant-garde impulses of Cubism and Dadaism, the evanescence of certain Giacometti sculptures and Modigliani portraits, the immediate expressivity of ethnic tattoo art. All the way to a recent women’s collection for which I let myself succumb to the allure of Vittorio Zecchin, an extraordinary Italian artist who absorbed the lesson of Viennese Secessionism in in absolutely personal terms. His paintings feature a continual (almost obsessive) repetition of pictorial-graphic modules in very much of a modern vein. I rethought the same through various means, in different sizes and proportions, to animate shapes and materials, so creating an interplay between elementary geometries (circles and rectangles in particular) and accurate constructions. Along the way, bypassing any immediate connection to my reference and – as always – necessarily coming up with my own interpretation, nuancing, redefinition, a wholly original twist…”

“My admiration for contemporary art is considerable, to be sure. Yet I feel that another sublime moment in the history of art – and of man in general – is the Renaissance, an age marked by great men, great ideas and great impulses. Above all by the pursuit of perfection and harmony, molded for the first time since the classical age to the image of man. It’s an age of reason and passion, methologies and utopias, of equipose between inventive spirit and ‘modern’ experimentation. An age in which the all-important engine was human intelligence and in which ability, attention and love made the outcome of creation extraordinary and unique. In name of a positive vision of existence.”

Fashion and fresh talent

“I’m convinced that, just as in any other profession, getting an education for a caeer in fashion makes sense and serves a purpose as long as there’s a link, an exchange I’d say, between school and actual work environment, between classroom learning and concrete hands-on verification of the same. It’s a connection that should, moreover, be rewarding for both parties. As yet, unlike in other countries, Italy isn’t doing enough officially in this respect. In France, for example, all the couture houses must follow the rules of the Chambre Syndicale (a state entity with decisional power that guides the entire sector) which obliges the ateliers to accept a certain number of fashion school students as apprentices. In other words, I don’t think the quality of teaching in Italian fashion schools is worse than what we find in those abroad. If anything, the problem lies in the structures and infrastructures, in the proper means and, as I said, in the regulations. I’m talking about rules that in general establish a real link – fruitful, productive, up to date – between professional training and on-the-job experience.”

“Schools must map out routes, open up horizons, be in the vanguard, providing students with tools and values. Operating not as a separate entity but as an integral part of the world at large, grasping its dynamics, ferments and stimuli. Surely there are still deficiencies in the school system – the public one primarily – which here in Italy offers little in terms of vocational training, fashion or otherwise. Moreover, at least in comparison to other countries, the regulations re company internships aren’t easy to maneuver (even though the situation has quite improved recently), nor in general do the regulations help to make sure creativity will have a future. In sum, the gap between academic and working worlds continues to exist, and this prevents the fashion industry from having at its disposal adequate skills for meeting concrete needs. Similarly, it’s detrimental with respect to guaranteeing creativity a future. Under the circumstances, it’s easier for the Italian fashion sector to draw fresh forces from the schools of other countries, where – thanks to cultural traditions, teaching formats and legislative standards – the creativity of young talents is fostered much more in synch with the industry’s effective needs.”

“I am fortunate to enjoy in my atelier optimal contact with young people, there flanking me in the role of assistant or intern. A remarkable selection of fresh talents of diverse origin, nationality, native language, for I believe in the melting-pot principle, feel that the mix is stimulating and advantageous for everybody involved. In this context my advice comes in the form of personal example: determination, strong will, self-denial, even sacrifice. Fashion is logic, method, system. It’s work. Better still, fashion is lots of different types of work: that of the designer, that of the tailor/dressmaker, that of the artisan, that of the technician… And work of this kind necessarily presupposes enthusiasm, dedication, curiosity (understood as ability and desire to look around and draw new stimuli), culture (understood as familiarity with the experiences of others, with expressions of human knowledge, with other horizons and other life realities. A tip off the cuff? Learn and experiment, work and know what you want.”

Femininity

“Curiously, my research in the sphere of men’s clothing has helped me to redefine and enrich my vision of femininity and elegance. Designing men’s collections has enhanced my understanding of women’s fashion. Male elegance is about rules, tenets and codes re a classic ‘uniform’ mode of dress: jacket, trousers, maybe a vest. All concepts which I chose to reconsider and, when possible, adapt to a feminine sense of taste. I feel that I’ve achieved spectacular results – in several cases even innovative – playing with opposites, blending a masculine bent for solidity and comfort with the quiet allure of an ever smooth and sophisticated femininity. As in flawless mannish-cut shirts in gorgeous feminine fabrics. The tuxedo jacket in combination with sheer tulle. Fabrics typical of army greatcoats for tight-waisted redingotes. Lastly, the military uniform of times past – with its distinctive opulence, repetitive decors, clever technical aspects and symbolic values – has served me as a precious source of inspiration and point of reference for modern-day feminine elegance.”

India

“My first real experience far from the usual milieus, the first time had to immerse myself in a totally different reality… I first went to India in 1973, practically all by myself, knowing a little English but obviously no Hindi or any other of the native languages. There I found myself confronting the ins and outs of everyday living, things didn’t even know existed at home. I had to adapt to the climate, to the food, to the pace of life. My impressions were so strong that even now they are perfectly clear. When I landed in Bombay, due to a slip-up found no one there to meet me (they didn’t show up until two days later). So, all of a sudden found myself catapulted into a sprawling, noisy city swarming with people. Where I could hardly get my bearings, totally awed by the colorful movie billboards with come-on looks of the most popular film stars and arcane interlacing of the letters of the Hindi alphabet… the animals roaming through the streets, men and women plodding along lugging all kinds of merchandise on head, shoulders, carts. To get away from this avalanche of sensations, I’d spend my free time by the ocean, reading and sketching. In Delhi one evening I happened upon the Red Fort, a Sikh hang-out. There they were, very tall men with bare torsos, bodies glistening with ointment, all singing and dancing and waving weapons. In the dark of the night I saw the flames, the shiny daggers, the drug-induced dilated pupils… Also, I became entranced by the Indian women: the endless hues of skin, the endless shades of sari, the endless ways of draping the garment, every fold with a meaning, a precision of its own. The symbolic value of the jewelry, the identification marks re the particular castes. An utter sense of dignity in the smiles, looks, gestures. A fundamental lesson in life and in style, without which my creative path would probably have been quite quite different.”

Lexicon

“Underlying my style’s backstory is a sort of lexicon, a set of hallmarks that while ever constant acquire new connotations and meanings, emerge in an infinity of variants, season after season. On attitudinal, operational and methodological levels, I can sum up my creative experience over all these years as none other than the concrete application of this lexicon and its continual updating through the expert creation and crafting of every single object (whether evening gown, flawless mannish outfit, pair of jeans, some accessory…). As in the strict precision of cuts and constructions, the perfection of proportions, the total harmony with the body. The Gianfranco Ferré lexicon is there, for example, in the systematic use of gorgeous (and in many cases exclusive) materials where avant-garde working processes always add to the appeal; in the scrupulous attention to detailing, to particulars, to finishing touches; in the passionate interplay of formal and informal, at once simplifying the former, ennobling the latter; in the mingling of forms, functions, genres in express pursuit of significant originality. Applying my lexicon affords me the pleasure and certitude of finding in every collection some timeless concepts – the supremely feminine blouse, the perfect women’s suit, the sumptuous evening gown, elegant sportswear – while offering a clear sense of continuity, linearity, fidelity to an idea of beauty.”

Luxury

“In times of hedonism I have always striven to offer luxury rich in content, substance, quality. In times of minimalism I have always continued to maintain the why and wherefore of luxury. These are raison d’être I believe firmly in. For, undeniably, luxury gives us wonderful and timeless pleasure.”

Masculine/Feminine

“We must play with our wardrobe, makes no difference if masculine or feminine. We must take an open-ended approach, adapt it to our own person, sporting – for instance – a Humprey Bogart trench coat over an Audrey Hepburn sheath, a ‘tech’ down jacket (possibly in a glossy taffeta) over an evening dress, a breathtaking bustier-bodysuit under a mannish pinstripe outfit (ideally not for a ten a.m. business meeting). By playing with our wardrobe we express our personality and identity. And on today’s fashion front that’s practically a must. We’re living in fluid, ever changing times, multicultural and multifaceted, so the same has to go for style, how we experience it in particular. That’s another reason why the ‘mannish’ suit is no longer the power suit all the rage back in the 1980s. The fabric may be dry and functional, typically ‘male’; the detailing may have very much of a techno slant. And yet the construction must follow the logic of a female figure, must reflect a womanly need for comfort and shapeliness. Thus today’s feminine suit has softer shoulders with only slight padding, a slim though not tight waist, nothing too wide in the way of lapels; it may assume a different look thanks to strategic ‘devices’ and cuts, so that for example the jacket falls flawlessly straight or drapes in a soft stole mode; it may still have pinstripes, let’s say, but simply in the form of exquisite topstitching or even embroidery. In the new millennium the masculine/feminine overlap consists precisely in applying the ‘logistics’ of male style to the genres of female dress, interchanging shapes, colors, materials, construction techniques, finishing touches, types of use… So, if the white blouse has a perfect mannish cut it comes in a lustrous satin; if in oxford-cloth, it has a rich draping.”

“The jeans are superslim yet come in satin jacquard or brocade. The tuxedo turns into an evening dress yet bypasses the sleeves or has parts in nude-look tulle. The army greatcoat is severe of style yet has the same mink trim as the denim jacket. The down jacket is ultra warm and functional yet makes a fashion statement thanks to form-fit padding.”

Materials

“I love pure materials, as in gorgeous silks, supple leathers, light natural linens, ultrawarm furs. In specific reference to silk, I love the most precious varieties: supremely feminine organza, full-texture taffeta (complete with wonderful rustle on a body in motion). But I’m an equal fan of the textile/material research that is now an essential aspect of fashion, that leads it into the future by offering whole new substances, fresh takes on traditional ones, and by stretching the limits of creativity. For me research is a passion, a major and unfailing force behind my creativity. I love working directly with the material, I love touching it, handling it, (re)inventing it, changing it. Try after try, step by step I move toward a desired result. Research & experimentation become a form of alchemy, where over the years have met so many challenges: the first sheer stretch tulle, the rubber-coated lace, the swimsuit in latex, the faux-paper jeans, the knit with semblance of fur, the animal prints, the leather as supple as fabric, the leather/lace mixes, the silk crushed like paper…”

“For me, associating the concept of material with the concept of alchemy comes naturally. I feel that the term ‘alchemy’ reveals in quite an enlightening way how the fashion designer may also make ‘magic’ with materials, coming up with remarkable effects, blurring the borderline between effective substance and playful illusion (i.e. all the fantastic inspirations and influences from the world of nature, animals in particular). In my collections I achieve my intent through trompe-l’oeil – namely, by treating the materials so that they would assume the semblance of other, completely different ones as to weight, consistence and origin. The quest for an effect as intrinsic raison d’être of a dress and the application of the principle ‘nothing is what it seems’ are two things that fire my creative imagination most. For me it’s both fanciful ‘game’ and continual challenge: experimentation, research in an effort to exalt all the material’s potential.”

Milan

”What I love about Milan is its concrete soul, the sense of reserve, privacy and discretion, the focus on work. Milan is a small city, more inner than outward of character. Once upon a time, in the upper-class neighborhoods the buildings hid wonderful gardens behind the main doors, while in the working-class ones all the action took place in the open courtyards and on the narrow balconies with railings. Milan’s strength and weakness lies in that what belongs to everyone sometimes suffers from neglect, the city isn’t very good at living and thinking on a ‘public’ level, while the progress it makes often comes from individual efforts. Today this drawback translates into deficient infrastructures, in the lack of a global town policy and urban planning, in the want of answers to collective needs. I’d like to see Milan improve in this respect… Meantime, I take breaths of air elsewhere. Paris, New York, London offer me what Milan doesn’t. A cosmopolitan feel, a wide vision of the world, multicultural and multiracial horizons, an indispensable stimulus for my work. Then I return home, to Milan….”

My creative path

“I am the first to feel the allure of what I do. I don’t consider myself pleased, gratified, until feel this sense of seduction, conviction. It’s the content I’m looking for, the concept, and if I don’t succeed in finding a balance between what I have in mind and the final result I’m not satisfied.”

“Deep down I think we must know how to invent and tell stories: the first person I tell the stories to is myself, so until I have the inspiration for one – a memory, a vision, whatever – there’s no spark of seduction. Then there’s a desire for womanly shape, marks of roundness coming from the head, the hand. If, for example, I consider the woman in boyish dress to be totally passé, am no longer able to see her with straight shoulders as in a mannish blazer. If do one, the shoulders have to be small, possibly round, so in the end design a kimono. However, I strive to make sure the kimono is new, fits differently, has no gussets or such. As for materials, think in terms of stretch ones, while gussets become particulars on sleeves…”

 “Many years ago I seriously feared being unable to free myself from the need to create for the sake of creating, not managing to get past my imprint and background as an architect. You know you’re an architect, know you know geometry, know you can find new solutions, but that’s not actually the primary problem. What I must be convinced about is the sense of proportion or the ‘mood’ of the dress.”

 “The genius lay in applying to my work my formal education as an architect, which I associate also to a concept of quality of life. Things I found in myself, things taught by my parents, by my family… And then making way for these grand gestures, which come in part from a wish to attract attention, draw attention not to myself but to the people who wear my clothes. Sense of grandeur, utmost luxury are other matrices, yet lived differently. All the same, determinant for my way of creating fashion: if I hadn’t had all this I wouldn’t have known how to face the experience of directing the Christian Dior atelier in Paris.”

Patterns & prints

“Merging pattern and severity, stripes spark my imagination very much, gratify my aesthetic sense equally in fashion and in interior décor, the latter being a dimension where stripes play a primary role for me also because they made a distinct impact in my childhood home and still today ‘imprint’ the domestic part of my existence. I love stripes for the intrinsic combination of expressive potential and graphic cleanliness, for the wealth of variations on the theme – from ultraclassic pinstripes to the brightest of bajadère motifs…”

Personal roots and values

“My rapport with Legnano is fundamental, simply because that’s where my roots are. While my love of travel is boundless – in real life as well as in my imagination, for business as well as pleasure – I couldn’t live without a concrete home base. Home, the place where I feel at home and naturally go back to, is a dimension as necessary and vital as the urge to discover and learn about new ones is irresistible. Home represents the ultimate certitude which somehow helps us to understand and ‘decipher’ what life’s various realities confront us with. I have a living relationship with my hometown, in no way nostalgic. That’s where I was born and grew up. That’s where my home is, especially my family and my close friends. Every evening I leave Milan and return to Legnano to have supper with my brother, my sister-in-law and a few friends. It’s a small town, solid, discreet, livable. Provincial, for sure, but in the best sense of the term.”

The values and certitudes deriving from my life experience, my background, my family upbringing in particular, have played and continue to play an equally determinant role in both my professional and personal lives. The so-called solid middle-class values – sense of duty, measure, discretion, discipline – have, I feel, been the best starting point, the best ‘springboard’ I could have hoped for. They have let me face all the tests and challenges which my rather special work has posed over the years with great determination and rigor, in the conviction that every achievement and every success had to be attained with utmost sense of commitment and responsibility. Solid middle-class values are part of my makeup and my life. This is true for the major decisions I take, for the vision of work and life I strive to fulfill in all I do. And no less so this is true for the little things of day-to-day living. These values are there in the importance I give to personal relations, to longtime bonds, to loyalty, honesty and sincerity in dealing with everyone. They are also there in my attachment to the minor-major rituals of a peaceful and ‘normal’ everyday existence: holidays with the family, loving and loyal relationships, enduring friendships…”

Polytechnic ‘68

“I graduated from the Milan Polytechnic Institute in 1969 with a degree in architecture. I wrote my thesis on the “Methodology of the Approach to Composition,” with Franco Albini as my major professor. The architectural design project that I presented had to do basically with urban sprawl. These were the years of the student protest movement but also a time of great ferment and enthusiasm. The level of teaching at the institute was very high in that period. The deans were initially Carlo de Carlo and then in my last year Paolo Portoghesi. A lot of my professors – primarily Franco Albini, Ernesto Rogers and Marco Zanuso – had put their stamp on the post-war reconstruction and rebirth of Milan. And some of today’s greatest Italian architects and artists – such as Aldo Rossi, Gae Aulenti, Renzo Piano and Corrado Levi – were on the faculty as lecturers or teaching assistants.”

Professional values

“Creativity: understood as the ability to interpret elegance from a keenly individual viewpoint, developing ever new and original solutions, integrating knowledge of and respect for style’s rules and traditions – no less than for fashion design methodology – with a passionate and constantly evolving interest in research and experimentation.

Quality: result of utmost attention to the product’s intrinsic merit, excellence, on the basis of a rigorous study of shapes, an accurate choice of materials, and especially the use of working processes and treatments that merge  the finest artisanal tradition with the most advanced expressions of industrial know-how and technology. The sum of all these attributes awards the Gianfranco Ferré product a value lasting past the seasons, making it something at once ‘in fashion’ and above and beyond fashion.

Uniqueness: essential aim of every Gianfranco Ferré design project, independently of the object to create. It entails a constant, passionate pursuit of beauty and exclusivity capturing a modern vision of luxury in close connection to the product’s intrinsic worth and no less so to its emotional value. Consequently, the Gianfranco Ferré product is conceived equally as item for use and object of desire, gauged on the need for individuality and personal expression that governs today’s approach to fashion more and more. To meet this demand, the uniqueness of a Gianfranco Ferré dress emerges primarily in the deep elements of poetry, magic and dream dimension that it is expressly given.

Coherence: as in the strong identity of a style that’s versatile, multifaceted and yet always true to its basis tenets. Offering, season after season, new inflections and expressions on various levels, all promptly relating to aesthetic principles that do not change over time, to a lexicon of hallmarks that may vary, take on new forms and shadings while always preserving an unmistakable imprinting.

Culture: experienced as the ability to elaborate expressions of style not only by drawing from a specific personal background and education, also making reference to the many art forms of our times – to cinema, design, literature, the figurative arts – as well as to the world’s so many other ‘cultures’ and to all different periods in history. So, the Gianfranco Ferré style may also be understood as the by-product of an in-depth, critical, expressly subjective and original reading of these multiple factors.”

Reference figures

“Balenciaga, Dior, Chanel: these are the great figures (along with Worth, for me the real founder of modern fashion) who represent the key references for contemporary elegance in general and, in particular, for my own way of conceiving and realizing it – on the basis of what I deem genuine affinities, especially with Balenciaga and Dior. With Balenciaga for the utter perfection of his shapes and volumes, the exquisitely outré ones included. With Christian Dior for his sense of luxury and opulence, for his unfailing pursuit of a sublime femininity made of flattering silhouettes, gorgeous details, unusual takes on materials. Meanwhile I admire Coco Chanel, formidable mind behind the liberation and emancipation of women on the fashion front, for her simple lines, her ‘poor’ materials, her clean shapes.”

Reverie

“It’s a word that captures quite well that feeling halfway between sleeping and waking, that quick succession of sensations – not yet fully formed thoughts, still mere fragments and fleeting images – from which inspiration springs. A dream dimension that becomes meditation, meditation that changes color in the rush of emotions. It’s in this wandering scene by scene – note by note, I’d say – that the terrain where the creative imagination sets down roots begins to takes shape. A fantastic landscape we reach in the most natural of ways.”

Shapes

“The very first definition of an idea for a dress is the sketch, at once initial end-point on a real level and effective starting point of the whole design project. To be specific, for me designing is a necessity as well as a passion. Indispensable for capturing impressions, setting them down on paper in a few quick, precise and synthetic strokes of the pencil. While the silhouette is essential – mere shoulders, waist, legs extending down the sheet – it already forms a figure. I could never imagine a dress immobile on a hanger: for me every embryo of a garment is a living thing, as right from the start I ‘sense’ its animation, its motion. And like in a regular growth process, this sort of essence of garment soon acquires force and identity when the lines of my sketch are developed according to the principles of geometry in a technical design where the shapes, components and particulars of the dress get analyzed, taken apart and redefined by codes, numbers, measurements, reference elements universally comprehensible and shareable.”

The late sixties - spirit of rebellion

“In the sociocultural climate of those years I found and brought into focus my professional aptitude: working inventively with materials, from the creation of my early Pop Art pins to my experimental takes on rubber. Later, I’d come to discover how congenial to me were the non-violent and religious forms of Indian clothing, in contrast to the Western variety, which – deriving originally from armor – are aggressive. After all, I’m the child of poetry and geometry, my two favorite subjects in high school. Still today, I’m happy when something moves me.”

Walter Albini

“I have a great many fond memories of Walter Albini: for more than one season early on in my career I worked with him designing accessories for his collections. I preserve an indelible impression of his utterly imaginative style, his dandy flair in having everything match (from suit to scarf to pocket handkerchief), right from the preliminary sketch… He embodied creativity, with flights of fantasy could depart from, almost cancel out reality. He took a purely aesthetic approach to the concept of elegance. But what I remember most is one precise moment, a sort of personal flash that still amazes me whenever it comes to mind. I’m talking about the first time I met him. I had on a beige gabardine suit, totally bourgeois, had put the sketches planned to show him in a leather briefcase all the more bourgeois. He greeted me in dazzlingly all-white linen outfit bordering on the unreal. We couldn’t have appeared (and been) more different from each other…”

White blouse

“Talking about my white blouse is all too easy. It’s all too easy to declare a love that covers the span of my creative path. A hallmark – perhaps the ultimate signature – of my style, which enfolds a constant pursuit of innovation and a no less unfailing love of tradition. A combination of tradition and innovation is what originally triggered the Ferré white shirt, set the story in motion. Tradition in the form of the men’s shirt, ever-present and encoded element of the wardrobe. Which tickled my fancy for invention, incited my propensity for rethinking the tenets of elegance and style in an interplay of pure fantasy and contemporary design. Read with sense of glamour and poetry, freedom and energy, the formal and quasi-immutable white shirt took on an infinity of identities, a multiplicity of inflections. To the point of becoming, I believe, a must of modern-day femininity… This process always entails a keen rethinking of shapes. The white blouse is never the same yet always unmistakable. It may be light and floaty, flawlessly severe (if the mannish cut remains), as sumptuously enveloping as a cloud, as skinny and snug as a bodysuit. Some parts, primarily collar and cuffs, become emphatic; others expressly lose ‘force’ and may even disppear (back, shoulders, sleeves). The blouse comes with precious lace and embroidery; turns sexy thanks to the use of sheer fabrics; acquires ultra importance with gorgeous ruffles and ruches. It billows delicately with every motion, almost free of gravity. It frames the face like a fabulous corolla. It sculpts the body in a slick second-skin mode. It is the eclectic interpreter of all types of materials: sheer organza, crisp taffeta, glossy satin. Duchesse, poplin, chiffon, georgette, too…

“I don’t think am wrong in asserting that the white blouse exerts a special appeal, is an expression of natural elegant femininity. Mostly I feel that, thanks precisely to its versatility, my fresh take on the white blouse is emblematic of a totally today approach to fashion and to dressing per se.

“It goes with gray pants, the black straight skirt, jeans, pullover, leather jacket. It may be the highlight of an ensemble, or a discreet complement under some suit jacket. It’s fine for both day and evening.

It’s the item par excellence of an open-ended wardrobe, one consisting of pieces that can be mixed and matched in any number of ways on the basis of wholly personal choices and wishes. In the lexicon of contemporary elegance, I like to think that the white blouse is a universal term every woman can ‘pronounce’ the way she prefers…”

“My” woman

“She is tall and slender, agile and energetic. She may not have perfect features, may not be a classic beauty, but she always exerts a distinct feminine charm. The allure is in her eyes, in her smile, in her sense of grace.”

Accessory


“Fundamental complement to the dress, decorative element for the body: as such, the accessory has always sparked in me a keen creative attention, a special and ever stronger passion. For me the connection between accessory and article of clothing is indispensable, indissoluble. They arise from a common inspiration, live in harmony from the very moment I begin envisioning the collection. They reflect the same influences, although in different forms, through different materials. Mostly, they capture the same idea of quality and uniqueness, elegance and beauty. Dress and accessory: one mirrors the other, one serves in understanding the other. Better still, the latter is a tool for interpreting the former, for reading the garment from a subjective viewpoint. Allowing anyone to easily identify with a style while at the same time giving it a personal slant.”