Gianfranco Ferré: China, fascination and magic

Fondazione Gianfranco Ferré

Elegant of both shape and decor, the Kui is a type of antique bronze vase deriving from what people thought to be a mysterious, mystical and supernatural melding process.

Chinese fractal cord embroidery is the technique of choice for embellishing this flannel jacket with a geometric swirl pattern inspired by the tail of a dragon.

Here decoration and material become one: that’s the essence of a long-sleeve form fit top in lacquered tubular leather where the circular movement creates a stunningly unique effect.

Lacquered gold lamé tubular leather on a tulle base gives definition to an impressive design seamlessly hugging the torso with a faux cable print.

For Ferré technique involves a distinct element of experimentation, as beyond any pure matter of creation what intrigues the designer is meeting some fabulous new challenge.

Ornamentation is rich with magical symbolism, as in archaic motifs the result of exclusive lost wax casting.

Similarly, this medallion features use of ancient agemina metal inlay, a technique which originated in China within the sphere of bronze working during the Hsia dynasty (21st - 16th centuries B.C.).

“This nappa T-shirt is dedicated to a woman who feels comfortable making antipodal opposition her own, so attaining that disorderly sense of order that for me is synonymous with modern elegance. Clearly and freely aiming to set her own personal style...”

The long figure-flattering jacket where leather joins forces with agemina-inlay medallions is definitely for a woman with a strong personality, a vibrant sense of urban style.

Likewise, the short slim fit jacket in leather and galuchat, sharkskin, with striking symbolic baroque underlines the determination of a woman who prefers a style of dress that conveys an appreciation for wild luxury, primitive refinement.

“Memories of books, travels, fairy tales and fantasy stories... The oriental dragon devouring the baroque swirl... China and the Land of the Rising Sun in the eyes of a European observer, seen through the glass of a magic lantern...”

According to the Taoist thinking “the Celestial Dragon is the steed that comes to bless and bear witness to a life well lived”.
The dragon — mythical animal linked to Fu Xi and Nu Wuo, progenitors of the Chinese people — is a symbol of courage, power and virility.

Ferré translates his fondness for chinoiseries into these silk jacquard pants where the luxuriousness of the design heightens the force of the meandering fire-breathing gold dragons.

The dragon — Loong in the Chinese language — became a decorative element in the clothing of both emperor and high functionaries during the Han dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.).

Ferré enjoys infusing his creations with complex poetic imagery, as in this sheer gold lacquered silk tulle top featuring on the front a dynamic dragon in lavish embroidery.

Allover gold embroidery on silk tulle takes decorative brilliance to new heights thanks to experimental techniques.
A harmonious interplay of wave patterns and medallion motifs captures the image of a dragon with dynamic elegance, rich sense of refinement.

“I realize that I have a particular weakness for gold — whatever the degree of luster — for shiny shimmering silver and for the warm glow or patina of bronze”.

Precious nuances intersect wondrous gold glints in fashioning the embroidery for this delicate bodysuit. Creating contrast is the rich fabric of the skirt, complete with organza belt lined in tulle embroidered with gold-overlay cord spirals.

Gold lace on a "nude" tulle base adds the all-important uniqueness factor to an exquisitely made jacket that adorns the body as if a dazzling jewel. “It’s for women whom no amount of adjectives can properly describe”.

The gold overlay process takes place in two steps, first on the finer pieces of cord and then on the thicker ones.

Dating back 2,000 years, Xiang — or Chinese embroidery — uses different types of stitches to maximize the vividness of design.

Ferré gives his embroidery a rich chunky feel that makes it more luxurious than the finest brocade.

The iridescent aquamarine hue in the shot brocade offers the ideal backdrop for the silver thread and Swarovski crystal embroidery. Absolutely gorgeous.

Here the game of contrasts is all about offsetting a deep blue hue with rich embroidery on organza: ten medallions edging neckline and defining shoulders are inspired by decorative elements on a Chinese throne engraved and lacquered.

This detail from a Chinese throne (928 B.C.) has very much the look of an airy light, semi-transparent handicraft.

In designing, Gianfranco Ferré has no use for purely explicit references. He infuses a modern sense of femininity with a feel for oriental decoration simply through the rich hue of fabric - silk cady and satin duchesse - and the embroidery of three medallions, distant echo of contemporary beauty.

The ceremonial dress that for more than 2,000 years emperor and dignitaries in ancient China used during propitiatory rites had an empire waist marked by a knotted cloth band. From the bottom edge of this band hung Bi xi: a particular type of ornament with symbols designed to protect the royal dignity.

Hundreds of years ago, near an old coal mine in Liaioning, town in the Fushun district of Manchuria, someone found a small amber lode that dated to the Paleocene period. While now the mine is mostly exhausted, the art of crafting items from artificial resins serves to keep appreciation for the ancient splendor alive.

"... some jewelry creates an intrinsic connection with the body, moving in perfect sync with it, delicately accentuating the sense of grace and harmony, exerting a particular allure: dangling bracelets that clink sweetly, long necklaces that sensuously follow the silhouette...”

The sublime elegance of monochromatic outfits brings out all the beauty of the big bead necklaces in varying shades of amber.

The bright red lacquered wood box epitomizes mastery of a craft that reached matchless heights during the Ming dynasty.

Similarly, the processing techniques applied to bracelets of artificial resins on a brass base exudes a contemporary sense of refinement.

The exquisite cleanliness of the mannish style dress clearly heightens the impact of the chiseled bracelet with dragons and other typically Chinese decorative symbols.
“... in a synthesis of sumptuous simplicity and opulent severity. Because only opposites co-exist in complete harmony...”

Severity elegance finds new definition in an all-black dress inspired by the cheongsam traditionally worn by Chinese women. As for the finely chiseled bracelets, they too make the most of symbolic motifs — here in a non-typical black color.

The fine gold manufacturing of the signature decor on these bracelets is what sparks comparisons to ancient Chinese handicrafts, so rendering the pieces extra precious.

Lacquer red — resulting from a perfect mix of resins — transforms the bracelets created for this collection into design objects with a distinct identity above and beyond any role in decorating the body.

Never thinking of jewelry as some mere ornamental accessory, Gianfranco Ferré always integrated it fully into the design and context of the dress. All while endowing it with elements of great decorative impact, as in this bracelet featuring a wealth of forms and materials.

The slinky simplicity of the dress serves in turning all attention to the make-a-statement bracelet which plays a lead role, also in the direct chromatic reference to the look.

Quintessential Chinese symbol, the dragon imprints a gold tone metal jewel dating to the 10th century B.C.

Through fine contemporary craftsmanship, a heavy bracelet exalts the mystique of an imaginary lion-dragon.

Red and gold, symbols and decors, embroidery and lace... that’s a recap of Ferré’s fascination with the magic of China.

“Trips are lived three times: when you dream them, when you live them, and when you remember them”.


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, Milano, 1999.
Frisa Maria Luisa (curated by), “Gianfranco Ferré. Lezioni di Moda”, Marsilio, Venezia, 2009.
A.A.V.V., “Fashion Intelligence”, Edizioni del Sud, Bari 2016.

Mara Cantafio Cappelletti, “Bijoux primo amore”, Ornamenta, March 1998.
Maria Luisa Frisa, “Un sogno lungo vent’anni”, Amica, October 9, 1998.
Guido Vergani, “Ferré”, Sette, October 10-16, 1998.
Brigitte Benkemoi, “Gianfranco Ferré, Carnets de voyage”, AOM Magazine, December 1998 / January 1999.
Samantha Conti, “Hip Hip Ferré”, W Magazine, October 1998.
Renata Pisu, “Shanghai Chic”, D Repubblica, May 2001
Sylvie Dauvillier, “Gianfranco Ferré Mode in Shanghai”, Point de Vue, May 5, 2001.
Maria Rita Stiglich, “Moda senza confini”, Pellicce Moda, December 2001.

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