Gianfranco Ferré: The Ultimate White Shirt Designer

Perhaps your mother shared the same advice with you as mine did with me; always have a white shirt in your closet.  My white shirts – T-shirts to blouses – have come to my rescue a few times throughout the years.  A woman’s individualized pronouncement of a white shirt and its many roles became Italian fashion designer Gianfranco Ferré’s focus for discerning women around the world.

The ubiquitous white shirt is appropriate and fashionable for nearly any occasion. The white shirt pairs perfectly with denim shorts to tuxedo slacks.  The white shirt serves as the quintessential symbol of authority in women’s and men’s business wardrobes.

Prior to becoming a commanding fashion voice and the perfector of the white shirt, Gianfranco Ferré was an architect. He traded concrete for women’s accessories and a few years later for silk. He always allowed the fabric to dictate the design lines. His white shirt designs explore the versatility, strength and grace found in silk organza, taffeta, chiffon and satin with occasional features of tulle and cotton.  The intricacy of his designs convince you that each is handmade and defy the logic (and reality) of mass production. His supreme attention to detail and his architectural approach led to his designing couture, serving as the Stylistic Director of Dior and earning him numerous, prestigious awards prior to his 2007 death.

This exhibit is a tribute to his genius and symbolic of contemporary Italian design. Each white shirt is fitted on a matte black torso. Each torso is suspended and anchored by circular hoops that connect to the top and bottom of the torso through silver-threaded cones. The lacquered black base of each row reflects the image of each shirt. The down and up lighting throughout the gallery is placed with laser-like precision. The exhibit is a wonderland of stark, yet warm contrasting black and white imagery in a mystical, moonlit fantasy.

Each white shirt’s fantastical design is explained through an inspiration statement and accompanied by his original sketch and fashion ads. He often combined design influences that originated from novels, uniforms, geometric-shaped objects, foreign cultures and films. He freely experimented with techniques and gave fluid, harmonious form to the duplicity of concepts such as feminine and masculine. He communicated his architectural expertise by precisely interpreting complex geometric patterns into minimalistic designs. He is to contemporary fashion what Frank Gehry is to contemporary architecture.  Can you imagine what a collaboration between them would have looked like? Perhaps, a pairing of their collective works could be the subject of a future exhibition.

Great design; timeless design is the most difficult design that few can master. Gianfranco Ferré proves that his design talent transcends boundaries. He exclaims, “For me designing is both a necessity as well as a passion.” The exhibition clearly articulates his words and these images are attempts to communicate his undeniable passion.

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The exhibition is designed by the Milan based Gianfranco Ferre Foundation and the Prato Textile Museum Foundation.