Gianfranco Ferré: from architecture to fashion

Fondazione Gianfranco Ferré

“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”.

“So, the Polytechnic: my University, the Architecture Department, a place I had entered with fairly confused ideas, but with a great passion for design”.

“A passion that I had to cultivate through constant practice, exercise and application, admiring those of my companions who seemed to me extraordinarily and unattainably better than I was”.

(Becoming later extremely talented…)

“... I knew that I would have never worked as an architect, but I can say with confidence that, over so many years, each of my creations has had in it at least a bit - and often much more - of what I learned at Milan Polytechnic”.

“In terms of logic, method and approach to design, but also in terms of willingness to analyze, taste for experimentation and rigor of intentions”.

“In the late ‘60s I was still student at the Polytechnic… as a proper autodidact I made my first jewelry: some belts, unusual objects for the time, avantgarde compared to what you could see in the fashion magazines of that age. In a way, they were examples of authentic craftsmanship. The rigor of the forms and the precise sense of design went hand in hand with direct intervention in the material”.

“Row-cut leather, metal, hardware elements, plastic: materials I molded and modeled by hand. I showed these objects to some female friends and fellow students at the university, gave them some of them and in the end people in the industry noticed them. They were liked, made an impression and they were photographed”.

“… my brooches, photographed by 'Linea Italiana' - September 1970”.

“… my belts, photographed by ‘Grazia’ - September 1971”.

“My ‘objects’ win the attention of both the buyers and the press. So, my first professional partnerships start with the creation of accessories lines, with Christiane Bailly and especially with Walter Albini, one among the founders of the Italian ready-to-wear, the very first designer who connected the fashion of the traditional atelier to the industrial sector.

Among my first collections, maybe my very first important step, the KETCH line, entirely produced in India and commissioned by San Giorgio Impermeabili, a Genoa based company.

This induced my great love for India, with its culture, its colours and flavours…”.

Between 1973 and 1978, a plenty of new professional partnerships:


Les Grenouilles



“I remember the Baila debut, at the 'Elefante Bianco' restaurant, on Via San Maurilio in Milan, in 1974. With no catwalk, the guest were seated around tables. The press showed up, even not in great numbers. And obviously my friends were there. I remember the wild applause, lots of enthusiasm, a good degree of astonishment”.

And finally, on October 18th 1978, the very first fashion show of the Gianfranco Ferré Women’s Ready-to-Wear collection for the Spring/Summer 1979.

The article from the “Corriere della Sera” of October 20th, 1978 by Adriana Mulassano.

“A Gianfranco Ferré collection arises out of a formal balance, a golden ratio that my training as an architect has allowed me to transfer into fashion. Here constructive creativity and interpretation meet in a perfect dualism that permeates the whole work”.

Then, in the following years, the Men’s collection…

“Today’s man, today’s woman. Equal as to sense of freedom, independence of character, autonomy in expressing personal tastes”.

… the accessories lines, scarves and bags…
“Accessories have always catalyzed people's emblematic interest in what makes for a special detail and/or particular nuance. In addition to serving as a complement to the outfit, the accessory plays a fundamental role in terms of its expressive value, its function as a distinctive element or identifying feature”.

... shoes...

... eyewear...

... fragrances...

… an object marking the time, with a unique design.

Furthermore many other clothing collections, the jeans line…

… and the GFF one.

Rome, July 1986 - January 1989, Alta Moda

“After eight years of designing ready-to-wear, I found it natural and coherent to undertake Alta Moda. Feel no opposition or division between the two. For me they represent distinct creative realities, yet not without a connection to one another”.

Splendor and femininity enhanced by this sumptuous silk taffeta and velvet cape...

… exclusive creations, conceived in an aura of exceptionality to satisfy demands and needs at the same time special and absolutely real for a surely privileged woman.

Embroideries and appliqués, expressions of an extraordinary craftsmanship.

Crinolines and puffy flounces, feather-light silk organzas and raffia flowers: a dreaming sensuality.

1989: another decisive step in the professional life of Gianfranco Ferré, appointed Artistic Director of the Maison Christian Dior.

In July 1989, for the first Haute Couture collection, he is awarded with the “Dé d’Or” for the best season’s creations by an international panel.

A romantic and regal gown from the very first Christian Dior collection.

“The ‘style recipe’ of Dior is composed by four words: luxury and femininity, severity and sophistication. Not to forget a pinch of poetry…”

“… It was a huge help to discover an entire series of deep affinities between my way of understanding and interpreting elegance and that of Monsieur Dior. In the perception of the female figure, in the use of the materials, in the formal intervention on the designs”.

A historical dressing structure, revisited with focus on lightness.

The assonance “Ferré - Architect”

“Creating fashion is certainly an operation of the imagination, an expression of sensitivity and intuition, but indispensable to it is the contribution of method, an aptitude for design that is founded on the conception of the garment as the result of a planned and conscious intervention in forms”.

“A process of construction that starts out from a two-dimensional reality - that of the design traced on paper in the form of a drawing - but with the human body as an indispensable referent from the very beginning”.

“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 - can not and must not be missing”.

“Without ever forgetting that fashion means also dreaming”

“Many people defined my clothings as architecture in fabric. I like that definition. It gives a good idea of what a design is for me: the result of a meeting 'guided' both by the creator’s hand and heart between form and material”.

The geometrical circles in different dimensions create the form of the dress with a sculptural shape.


- The drawing as first step in the design.
- The material. Treatments and processing. Technology and research.
- Color, an “intrinsic” element of design.

“The drawing is the first concrete expression of an idea. A first point of arrival in the dimension of reality and a point of departure for a creation. It is a necessity, as well as a passion. It serves to fix impressions and give them a hint of substance”.

A perfectly detailed technical drawing…

… and its translation into a catwalk look.

“From material fashion derives its own substance and even its physical and tangible existence. Technological experimentation offers unheard-of possibilities for the utilization of materials, optimizes their qualities and potentialities, makes possible unprecedented mixes, combinations and treatments and ‘invents’ new ones…”

The crumpled taffeta seen in the previous image recalls the bark of these trees: an unexpected harmony between different materials.

Color represents an inseparable category with respect to the idea of the garment, to its form and its nature, right from the very first idea and the very first sketch on paper.
… Research for new shades and highlights, surprising tones and nuances that form in turn a more multifaceted vocabulary of their own that expresses energy, poetry, magic, allure, purity”.

Having to choose a single, recurring theme in the Ferré fashion shows, we can not fail to mention the white shirt: “It is never the same, yet always unmistakable in its own identity. The white blouse 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…”

The masculine styled shirt with embroideries.

The revisited painter’s blouse.

“Some of its parts, primarily collar and cuffs, become emphatic; others expressly lose ‘force’ and may even disappear: 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”.

The shirt enhanced in its parts.

The asymmetric opulence of the shirt.

“The white shirt according to me. Gianfranco Ferré”

Exhibition in the “Sala delle Cariatidi” at the Royal Palace, Milan, March 2015.

Reason or feeling?
“Creating fashion is an emotional process that presupposes impulse and inventiveness, that brings into play suggestions, sensations, impressions. Yet the methodological approach is an indispensable aspect of creative activity. The emotional and sensory input has to be rationalized, analyzed, codified and brought within a perspective of design. Thus creating a garment means knowing how to dream rationally”.

Total lightness in the fine pleated frills.

Flowers and leaves in a catwalk garden.

Whiteness and sensuality in both laces and embroideries.

Richness and preciosity of both fabrics and décors.

“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 defined by cultural aspects, social dynamics, everyday rhythms and habits”.

“A man is what he does, what he accomplishes in life... And I'm convinced it's my work that tells my story best: the clothes I create, the style I've developed over the years, the aesthetic values I strive to express in a fully consistent way, the objectives I've achieved, the projects I'm excited about pursuing in the here and now, the challenges I never tire of taking up and meeting...”

Drawn from his notes, lessons and interviews, the words, thoughts and ideas of Gianfranco Ferré - here in the form of quotes - express the designer’s passion for the real, yet mostly imaginary “neverending journey” that always inspirited his style, his collections.

Ferré Gianfranco, "Lettres à un jeune couturier", Editions Ballard, Paris, 1995.
Ferré Giusi (curated by), "Gianfranco Ferré. Itinerario", Leonardo Arte, Milan, 1999.
Frisa Maria Luisa (curated by), "Gianfranco Ferré. Lezioni di Moda", Marsilio, Venice, 2009.
A.A.V.V., "Fashion Intelligence", Edizioni del Sud, Bari, 2016.

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