MILAN — Anna Piaggi had her eccentric style, blue hair and bold makeup, Franca Sozzani her long angelic blonde hair and Giusi Ferré was unmistakable with her layers of silk capes, spiky red hair and statement jewelry. Like her peers, Ferré, who died the night of April 14 at age 75 after a long illness, contributed to narrating the history of Italian and international fashion for decades, and became a point of reference in the industry.
Ferré developed her career writing for magazines such as Epoca and L’Europeo. She held the role of codirector of Amica, and went on to pen her own column, “Buccia di Banana [banana peel]” for the weekly Io Donna, published by Corriere della Sera, commenting on the styling mistakes of celebrities. The columns later became a book by Rizzoli.
She wrote the book “Giorgio Armani. Il Sesso Radicale” in 2015 and on Friday the designer said: “Dear Giusi, you have been a friend, discreet and loyal. I will very much miss your depth of sensibility, through which you knew how to recount my thoughts and my work. And I will miss your irony, critical spirit and tinkling laugh.”
She was also fast friends with Gianfranco Ferré, to whom she was not related, reiterating this again and again. This was an easy mistake, given their physical resemblance, said Rita Airaghi, the late designer’s cousin and longtime collaborator who created the Fondazione Gianfranco Ferré.
Born in Milan on Dec. 16, 1946, the writer and the designer were only two years apart in age and “they understood each other, shared problems connected to their imposing physical appearance and teased one another on this. Gianfranco would even suggest diet tips — she had a strong sense of humor,” recalled Airaghi. “She was very special, I am deeply saddened, it’s another piece of my life that disappears and Gianfranco and I shared so many moments together with her on our path since the mid-’70s. She had an ability to understand fashion that was quite unique. She was enlightened, her words were razor-sharp, clear and precise, she was enormously cultured and educated and would quote and make references to any author with a surprising ease. Her passion has become an example for the next generation of journalists, who see her as a mentor and a teacher.”
Giorgio Re, communication specialist and a member of the former Gianfranco Ferré press office, recalled a quirk of hers, as she refused to use a computer and continued to work with a typewriter. He also remembered how the designer, who died in 2007, and the journalist were bound by “a strong affection and shared a brisk intellectual exchange, both being equally frank with one another. Her culture was expansive and she would always add sociological and cultural musings to her fashion commentary. She was very rigorous with her work, but she had a strong sense of irony and a spontaneous, beautiful laugh.”
“We’re all very upset and moved, the magazine was born with Giusi,” said Danda Santini, editor in chief of Io Donna. “Her column has always been the favorite among our readers. She was an exceptional collaborator, always on time…and with razor-sharp writing skills,” she said. “She could easily ping-pong between fashion, culture and lifestyle [subjects]. She was brilliant and cultured, but at the same time, she could be very light spirited, humorous and self-mocking, which is not always typical in our industry. As much as she was professionally sharp, she was lovable, always smiling and laughing.”
In 2007, in the first of four seasons of TV show “Italia’s Next Top Model,” the local edition of the cult American franchise hosted by Tyra Banks, Ferré and Santini were both judges and the latter recalled how the seasoned journalist was “objective in her judgments, but always tormented when it came to eliminating a young model-to-be with big dreams and ambitions; this was testament to her strong empathy.”
“I met Giusi in the early days of my career at Versace. She was already established and I was only 19 and saw her as a point of reference,” said Emanuela Schmeidler, founder of Milan-based communication agency ES_PR. “She was a great writer, and she listened and reinterpreted like few others. She always had a vision, whatever her pen expressed. Today this vision lives on among the young writers who share this passion for the written word. When there was a need for quality of thought, Giusi was always top-of-mind. I had a lot of respect for her, for how she faced the difficulties in life, and she was a real friend. A piece written by Giusi was always a privilege.”
— With contributions from Martino Carrera