Leading Italian fashion designer Ferre dies

MILAN, June 17, 2007 (AFP) - The Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre, whose training as an architect had a crucial influence on his approach to fashion, died Sunday June 17th in a Milan hospital after suffering a massive brain haemorrhage. He was 62.


Gianfranco Ferré - Photo : François Guillot/AFP

The condition of Ferre, who was admitted to intensive care in the San Raffaele hospital on Friday after complaining of feeling unwell, had deteriorated sharply through the night.

According to ANSA, Ferre had already suffered two strokes in the past but had managed to recover, without paying heed to medical advice.

The portly designer suffered from diabetes but had never managed to curb his sweet tooth, press reports noted.

Ferre, whose international career included eight years as artistic director for the prestigious house of Christian Dior in Paris, was born in Legnano, northern Italy, on August 15 1944.

He studied architecture in Milan, qualifying in 1969, although within a few years he had moved over into fashion. But his first love never left him: he has been called "the Frank Lloyd Wright of Italian fashion".

"Dressing a woman or man one must think in terms of lines, volumes, proportions. It is exactly the same as 'dressing' a space. The difference, the most important one, is that for the fashion designer the work of reference is the human body, an object in motion," he once said.

The British fashion writer Colin McDowell has said Ferre's creations had the "power and beauty of sculpture. His clothes are powerful statements of shape and have the crisp quality of origami.

"If such a thing is possible, Ferre has developed into a fashion intellectual, producing clothes of such a logical perfection that they are like the solution to a complicated engineering equation."

From designing mostly jewellery and belts in the early 1970s, he moved effortlessly into women's ready-to-wear in 1974 under the Baila label.

Three years studying handicrafts in India in the early 1970s left a permanent mark on him in a taste for exoticism and colour.

It was while talking to Ferre that the legendary Diana Vreelend made her famous remark that "Pink is the navy blue of India." Ferre's down-to-earth reply was "Naturally, pink is the navy blue of India because it's the cheapest of all dyes."

In 1978 he founded his own fashion house, and four years later sent out his first menswear collections.

In 1984 he was named designer of the year. The international trade press awarded him the womens' ready-to-wear award five times over the following years.

As well as working on his own label, he was artistic director for Christian Dior in Paris from 1989 to 1997, managing to recapture the traditional spirit of the house while giving it a new, modern edge.

He rapidly established himself as one of the most talented Italian designers of ready-to-wear clothes, alongside Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace, with his characteristically graphic designs, strong shapes and bold colours, making use of intricate folding, pleating and layering.

He was dubbed the "king of the shirt" for his dramatic big white blouses, a hallmark of his collections for women.

Ferre said he designed clothes for "intelligent, free, strong women. Strong in their temperament, their character, their passionate side. Elegance has personality, like seduction."

In 2000, the group Tonino Perno bought a 90 percent stake of Ferre's fashion house, folding it into It Holding two years later.

At his last ready-to-wear show in February this year, he appeared on the catwalk with the British singer Skin, and the French model Patrick Petitjean, who headed his recent advertising campaigns.

Celebrity clients included Hollywood star Barbra Streisand, Britain's Princess Michael of Kent and the billionaire Getty family.

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