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Brand Looks to Future After Ferre Tribute

The fashion industry bid an emotional farewell to the late Gianfranco Ferre Sunday.

MILAN — The fashion industry bid an emotional farewell to the late Gianfranco Ferré Sunday, offering up an extended standing ovation at his posthumous men’s wear show.

The house’s employees, audience members and even a couple of the runway models shed tears during the show. A group of children dressed in the designer’s signature white shirts walked the runway as a finale. Giorgio Armani offered up his own Ferré tribute on Sunday, projecting a large portrait of the late designer on the stage before kicking off his Emporio Armani show.

Rita Airaghi, Ferré’s cousin and former communications director, and Ferré chief executive officer Massimo Macchi fought strong emotions at the show, just one week following Ferré’s death from a brain hemorrhage.

“Courage, courage!” intoned Macchi before the show. “Just out of respect to him, we have to go on.”

Meanwhile, the house is starting to plot its future. On Saturday, Macchi and Tonino Perna, chairman and ceo of Ferré parent company IT Holding SpA, hosted a press conference to reassure journalists that the brand will persevere.

Perna stressed that the house has a responsibility to work past its grief. The company will rely on its 35-member design team for now as management evaluates whether or not to hire a new creative director or promote from within. Perna said the company doesn’t feel rushed because the women’s spring-summer 2008 collection is already near completion.

“It’s not a given that Ferré’s heir isn’t already [within the design team]. We will determine whether the current structure is capable of continuing on its own,” Perna said, specifying that he’s unable to give a more specific timetable for the decision-making process. “We don’t have the necessity to decide tomorrow.”

Perna said the house must stay faithful to the founding designer’s aesthetic sensibility, but also move forward. “We know very well that we have to evolve ourselves, but we also know that we have a structure capable of doing that,” he said.

Eager to keep the spotlight on the late designer, Ferré officials are hesitant to identify members of the existing design team, but sources here indicate that Giovanni Vidotto, head of men’s wear design, could emerge as a possible leader.