Roland Barthes explains his fascination with the Land of the Rising Sun in the following passage from his book “The Empire of Signs”: “Though in no way claiming to represent or to analyze reality itself, I can isolate somewhere in the world (faraway) a certain number of features (terms employed in linguistics), and out of these features deliberately form a system. And it is precisely this system that I will call Japan”.
The national flag, Hinomaru, derives from an ancient image linked to Japanese cosmology and mythology, the latter of which has Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, for protagonist. Another legend about the origin of Hinomaru references the Buddhist priest Nichiren: during the 13th century, the cleric gave the shōgun, the emperor, a banner with an image of the sun on it to carry into battle, as an assurance of victory.
For Gianfranco Ferré too, Japan provides a kaleidoscope of features, aesthetic sensations and sensibilities, a system of signs rooted in tradition which reveal a different wisdom that seduces and stimulates him. Japan possesses a “rhythm of the soul” that’s marked by a current of exuberance and at the same time of self-restraint. This contrast, which finds expression in a heterogeneous aesthetic animated by dissonances, surely fascinated Ferré, who drew from it a reason for reflection re the affinities between it and his own creative thinking.
Symbol of good luck and happiness, red is the ultimate color. The wagasa - traditional Japanese umbrella made from bamboo, cord and washi paper (a type common throughout the archipelago) - had up to the 16th century the status of luxury object, thought to ward off evil spirits. Now it is considered an objet d’art, one that plays a role both in tea ceremonies and, in particular, in Kabuki theater.
In the beauty of the denial of excess, in this case meaning the “beauty of what’s missing” - an aesthetic ideal popular in Japan during the Middle Ages -, among the many elements that stand out is one which Ferré reintroduces as a recurring complement and ornament: the kanzashi, the small lacquered wood rod that serves as a decorative finishing touch both in geisha hairstyles and in samurai belts.
In Gianfranco Ferré’s designs, yet even before that in his style vision, the Land of the Rising Sun’s flower-symbol of purity and nobility takes print form, becomes a motif that while deviating from the original reference never loses sight of it. He plays with it graphically, interprets it through techniques that conceal it in part and at times exalt its infinite grace.
The intense pleasure of perfection and aesthetic pursuit determines the mysterious vertigo of Gianfranco Ferré’s ideal of beauty, which he extols in his nod to iki - an ideogram of extremely complex meaning which expresses an ability to combine spontaneity and artifice, attaining a supreme degree of refinement on both ethical and aesthetic levels -, the desires and wishes - complete with inherent traces - hidden in the cross references between East and West.
In the Edo period, or Tokugawa (1603-1868), brown was considered the color of iki, ultimate concept in aesthetics of an ideal elegance. Thanks to its intense hue with a low level of saturation, this chromatic identity expresses both a form of seduction involving a capacity for sacrifice and a sensuality involving an aptitude for studied detachment.
Samurais - literally, “to be at someone’s service” - were feudal Japan’s military men. Originating as the private armed guard of the great feudal families, samurais were warriors and as such belonged to one of the two Nipponese aristocratic castes. To protect their legs while riding on horseback, in addition to their kimono, they wore a hakama tied at the waist. This garment, which came down more or less to ankles, existed in two different versions: one a sort of pantskirt, the other in a pleated skirt style.
In his collections Gianfranco Ferré exalts the prerogatives of brown, the color of shodo - Japanese elegant calligraphy - for example, through dévoré embroidery motifs on a shirt. He matches it with his own take on the hakama, shown here in the form of a skirt with seven pleats. Seven is the number of essential virtues in the samurai code of conduct.
The delicate severity of Utamaro’s faces imprints the design, generating a pure, alluring challenge very much about asymmetry, transparency and luster, sheen, an almost imperceptible movement of the fabric. The choice of Utamaro as the designer’s source of inspiration assumes greater significance if we observe how he executes the creation process: namely, implementing and inflecting it through the use of different bases and materials, as in the topstitched knit fabric that serves both as the backdrop for the print and as a counterpoint to the black silk - also topstitched - forming other parts of the garment.
Ferré shows his love of the ancient Japanese tradition of Satsuma porcelain by reproducing the moriage technique in print form on lacquer black and lacquer red. In a composition with gold inlay work, this technique - which involves building up areas of enamel to produce a three-dimensional effect - finds new definition also in woven fabric form - there in the obi belt hugging hips.