PRATO — The Gianfranco Ferré Foundation and the Prato Textile Museum Foundation are honoring the late Italian fashion designer, who elevated the classic white dress shirt to a fine art through architectural designs in luxurious fabrics.

The exhibition “The White Shirt According to Me. Gianfranco Ferré” was inaugurated on Saturday at the Prato Textile Museum, housed in a converted textile mill. “Each Ferré piece shows creativity, poetry and imagination, but every shirt is the result of deep thought — it doesn’t happen by coincidence,” said Rita Airaghi, director and general manager of the Ferré Foundation.

“It takes a skillful combination to develop and create a design — nothing can be left to chance. Everything must be reasoned and well-conceived,” said Airaghi of Ferré’s highly conceptualized, meticulous aesthetic, which earned him the press sobriquet “The Architect of Fashion.” Airaghi’s goal is to make the designer’s oeuvre accessible to the emerging generation of fashion designers. Deeply committed to cultivating nascent fashion students, Ferré taught fashion design from 1983 to 1989 at Italy’s first postgraduate design school, the Domus Academy.

Under the artistic direction of Luca Stoppini, the austere, otherworldly exhibition commences with biographical wall texts and an overview of Ferré’s architectural constructions from start to finish — industrial cardboard shirt patterns, ghostly X-ray photographs of key catalogue pieces and a multimedia pastiche of photos of runway collections.

The second room, a vast industrial space, displays 27 mannequins divided into seven rows, bisected with thin aluminum wires, which are draped in white tunics, blouses and dress shirts in various volumes and weights from Gianfranco Ferré ready-to-wear collections spanning from 1982 to 2006.


Corresponding display cases contain hand-drawn sketches, editorial and advertising prints and runway stills. The shirts were culled by exhibition curator Daniela Degl’Innocenti from the extensive archives at the Gianfranco Ferré Foundation located in Milan’s Tortona design district. A 330-page bilingual exhibition catalogue has been published by Skira and retails for 40 euros, or $85 at current exchange. The exhibit runs through June 15.

The Prato Textile Museum and its managing foundation in the heart of one of Italy’s textile districts, 12 miles northwest of Florence, have been curating exhibitions since 2003 to promote the storied Prato textile industry.

The nonprofit Gianfranco Ferré Foundation was created in 2008 in remembrance of the designer, who died in June 2007, aged 62. At its helm, president and chairman Alberto Ferré organizes initiatives to preserve his brother’s legacy. The designer founded his fashion house in 1978 in Milan. Since Ferré’s death, creative designers have cycled through the fashion house, most recently in December 2013 with the resignation of Stefano Citron and Federico Piaggi, who came aboard in 2011. The brand is controlled by the Dubai-based Paris Group, which is skipping a rtw collection for the upcoming fall 2014 Milan Fashion Week shows.

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