|Renowned as an architect of fashion, Italian designer Gianfranco Ferré creates clothing and accessories characterized by a youthful, modern spirit, avant-garde technology and attention to comfort and functionality. As a child, he dreamed of being a pharmacist and mixing potions to treat various ills. Then following the wishes of family he studied and received a degree in architecture in 1969 from the Milan Polytech Institute. At the same time he was studying architecture, Ferré was making his debut in the fashion world, designing jewelry and accessories for fellow students. Fashion editors started noticing and featuring his creations in magazines. He also began a series of accessory design and consultation jobs. In 1974, his first ready-to-wear collection launched. In 1978, the Gianfranco Ferré company was founded with a line of women’s ready-to-wear and accessories bearing his name. His business has since expanded into couture, furs, men’s and children’s lines, jeans, fragrances and accessories, including eyewear and sunwear. He has had a licensing agreement for ophthalmic and sunglass lines since 2002 with Allison Eyewear. |
In 1989, Ferré was appointed artistic director of the House of Christian Dior, designing haute couture and ready-to-wear collections under the Dior name until 1996. In 2002, the Gianfranco Ferré Company became part of IT Holding. Ferré has won countless awards and has had his designs featured in museums throughout the world.
In an exclusive interview with , the designer reflects on personal style, the changing fashion world and that all20/20 important accessory—eyewear.
How important do you think eyewear/sunwear is to a designer’s repertoire?
I love to design. I love to give my own creative input to concrete objects such as eyewear. It didn’t take me long to add eyewear to my other lines of accessories, all of which are an integral part of my ready-to-wear collections. Not coincidentally, eyewear is always used in my fashion shows—just as are bags, belts, jewelry and every other type of accessory.
How do you make eyewear more than just another license?
I design my eyewear in complete synch with the clothes. Of all accessories, it has the closest link to facial features, making a key contribution in defining and characterizing the face. Eyewear holds great emotional potential, relating directly to our personality, our being, our individuality. Of all my projects, it has always enjoyed particular attention. More than other accessories, eyewear entails working with pure shapes and requires an intensely innovative use of material.
What is your design philosophy?
My creative intent with all my designs is to combine harmony and beauty with functionality.
What is your personal definition of style?
Style—like elegance—is harmony of dress, body and mind. It’s self-knowledge and self-assuredness. It’s an expression of personality and inner depth. It’s something I cannot conceive of as distinctive from naturalness. To me style refers not so much to what we wear as how we wear it.
How do you keep your designs fresh from season to season?
I’ll answer that from an opposite standpoint: What comes first and foremost is consistency of style. We use certain leitmotifs that are easily recognizable, albeit in new interpretations. However, that does not prevent us from picking up on new trends and new needs. For a designer, creating something new every season means being “ahead” with mind and heart, and all five senses. We have to be constantly alert to all the stimuli and inspiration around us. From this stimuli, we can then create something uniquely our own. The novelty factor in fashion springs from a changing world, but novelty takes on the connotation of style only when someone gives it a recognizable identity.
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
On a personal level, my greatest satisfaction lies in being able to express myself in what I do, transforming my vision of life into a concrete project. It’s also gratifying for me to see that my clothes—beyond expressions of my own taste—can define the taste of the times. It’s extraordinary, for example, knowing that a woman chooses one of my shirts because in wearing it she feels more beautiful or more modern or more comfortable.
What do you want to be known for?
I make every effort to have the Ferré style grounded in quality—whatever form it may take—evening gown or jeans, fur or eyewear. Quality to me encompasses many things: exclusivity, originality, peerless materials, exquisite workmanship. This to me is modern luxury—luxury with substance—luxury that corresponds to the dynamics of modern life.
What major changes do you foresee for the fashion industry?
Ongoing change in fashion is essential. Fashion continues to evolve.
With the various acquisitions and mergers that have taken place in the past few years, the fashion industry has finally caught up with the globalization already in place in other sectors of the world economy. Reflecting on my eight-year “adventure” at Christian Dior and the integration of my brand in IT Holding, I can say being part of a major luxury group does not necessarily jeopardize the creator’s artistic freedom. On the contrary, it lends now indispensable support in terms of resources, investments and means and modes for penetrating/conquering markets. This type of integration not only provides the designer with the opportunity to make a real dent worldwide, it also affords him creative peace so he can develop new projects, new spheres of expression.
If you were not a designer what would you like to be?
Enthralled with the mixing of drugs still done in pharmacies when I was a little boy, I wanted to be a pharmacist. However, my family wanted me to be a doctor or an engineer. I then studied architecture and entered fashion almost by chance. A matter of Fate, evidently… —Gloria Nicola