The White Shirt according Gianfranco Ferré
A must see exhibition in Milan.
The exhibition, promoted by the City of Milan, Department for Work Policy, Fashion and Design and Department for Culture, is organized and produced by Palazzo Reale and the Gianfranco Ferré Foundation jointly with the Prato Textile Museum. It is edited by Daniela Degl’Innocenti and devoted to the talents of one of the most illustrious names in international fashion of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Conceived to showcase the creative and sartorial poetics of Gianfranco Ferré’s work, the exhibition uses various art forms to guide the visitor on a discovery of the white shirt – authentic paradigm of his style – highlighting the most innovative design elements and deeply fascinating interpretations. A constant presence and major theme throughout Ferré’s career, the white shirt became for the designer a “hallmark of (his) style” and a “contemporary lexicon of elegance”.
Aiming to give force to the different figurative languages inherent to Ferré’s work in examining, taking apart and refashioning the shirt, the exhibition itinerary at once plays with and makes the most of various materials as a corollary to the creations put stunningly on a manikin. They include drawings, technical details, sketches, photographs, advertising and editorial images, videos and installations. Setting the exhibition in motion is an initial passageway where giant images of Ferré’s autographed drawings are projected onto swathes of tulle. This enables the visitor to grasp instances of his remarkable creative vision while getting a first hint of the shirts on display.
The main section of the exhibition is in the Hall of Cariatidi. There twenty-seven white shirts – a magnificent array of sartorial masterpieces – bear silent witness to two decades of design genius. Presented for the most part in chronological order, the shirts are minor sculptures bathed in light. The idea is to bring out the full beauty of the shades of white, the interplay of light and shadow, thereby attaining an evocative plastic effect. Taffeta, crepe de chine, organza, satin, tulle, cottons and silks, mechanical embroidery, lace, hand stitching, macro and micro decors follow one another in a crescendo of pure mastery and counterpoise.
Along the sides of the hall various materials from the Ferré Foundation Archives – technical drawings, sketches, shots by world-class photographers, advertising and editorial images – are aptly displayed. The original drawings spark particular interest, for they illustrate the designer’s amazing ability to synthesize all the elements intrinsic to creating one of his shirts (silhouettes, volumes, detailing, fabric weight and texture) which he describes in his distinctive, elegant script.
On the ceiling there is a series of exquisitely oneiric images. They are photographic projections (x ray simulations) which capture the shirts from an eloquenty technical perspective, recreating each one’s structural and physical framework while clearly showing layers and textures, yet above all imbuing the designs with a unique delicacy and a poetic lightness. The subtle intensity of this language is the result of research undertaken in collaboration with the Workshop of Semi-precious Stones in Florence and brought to fruition by Florentine photographer Leonardo Salvini. It’s the first time ever that this type of photographic restoration plays an effective role in interpreting the contents of a fashion exhibition.
Completing the itinerary is a suspended system of images shot by Luca Stoppini, again to underscore how a sense of levity and airy motion represents a key to understanding the whole project.
Published by Skira, an impressive catalog under the artistic direction of Luca Stoppini accompanies the exhibition. The book explores diverse topics of relevance, starting with an introductory essay by Daniela Degl’Innocenti and then proceeding with thought-provoking contributions by prominent figures in the realms of Italian style, fashion and architecture. One by one, Quirino Conti, Anna Maria Stillo Castro, Margherita Palli, Daniela Puppa and Franco Raggi offer valuable insights into the creative vision of the great architect of fashion. A piece by Alessandra Arezzi Boza on the meaning of the concept of heritage in Gianfranco Ferré Foundation activities concludes the catalog.