"For me drawing means jotting down on paper a spontaneous idea which I can then analyze, check, verify and fine-tune, reducing the basics to precise and concise lines set on diagonals and parallels within geometric shapes and figures. Being a fashion designer and an architect I see fashion as a form of design," Gianfranco Ferré
Though the fashion industry revolves around strong visual stimuli, in the last few years it has neglected the art of fashion illustration. It is true that, every now and then, we get books about it and occasional exhibitions or even auctions of illustrations, but we have become more accustomed to ask designers to show us their inspirations through their Instagram feed rather than through their sketches. Yet, illustrations can tell very beautiful stories, as an exhibition that will kick off in April about Gianfranco Ferré will soon prove.
"Gianfranco Ferré. Moda, un racconto nei disegni" (Gianfranco Ferré. Fashion, A Tale in Drawings) will open on 18th April at the Santa Maria della Pietà Cultural Center (Piazza Giovanni XXIII), in Cremona, Italy, and will feature over 100 signed drawings by the late designer.
Once the pilgrim's hall of a leper hospital, this 15th century venue in a late Gothic style has become in more recent years an exhibition space for artworks such as etchings, drawings and comics.
The illustrations will be arranged in groups according to thematic, chromatic and graphic affinities. As Ferré wrote in his notes, drawing for him was an exercise he engaged in on an everyday basis, "That's why people call me the 'Architect of Fashion'," he commented at the time, continuing, "I confess this is a moniker that I sometimes find a bit limiting because it's been with me since the early days of my career, and most of all because it highlights the technical aspect behind my work, overshadowing the passion and enchantment that's intrinsic to the fulfillment of the design project."
Most sketches come in the same 16 x 30 cm format: Ferré employed this type of sheets to define quick silhouettes based on three key elements - shoulders, waist and legs. At times he coloured in the sketches and added details; at others he opted to barely outline his powerful silhouettes.
Ferré would create two different sketches per garment: a first drawing that featured explanatory notes and detailed close-ups and a second sketch finalised before a fashion runway to show the dynamism of the design. The power of movement was indeed one of his first and foremost interests.
As he once stated: "For me drawing means to be aware of one's body and of its natural needs to move. I think that, in today's world, our bodies demand indeed immediate and essential forms of clothing that are in total sync with the lines and marks defining my sketches."
According to Rita Airaghi, Director of the Gianfranco Ferré Foundation, the drawings are a way "to retrace an intellectual path, the evolution of an inner world built on study and research, cultural and design synthesis."
The event will also include a small group of larger sketches that will form the core of the exhibition. At times the drawings reveal surprising elements such as mixes of different materials like the foil of a cigarette package.
"Ferré's constant inventiveness developed into signs on paper, stunning silhouettes that with a few quick lines in soft-tip pen evoke a dynamic figure, often highlighted in pencil marks, sparkles and gold hints made with tin foil or glitter dust," Airaghi states in a press release.
A few drawings will be juxtaposed to the actual creations, so that visitors will be able to see how an idea was transposed into materials, fabrics and embellishments.
"Ferré interpreted some of his designs as splotches of colour, calligraphic entanglements, explosive lines, or as the synthesis of a highly textural detail," Airaghi continues. "What's so striking about him is the utter precision of details even in the simplest of sketches."
The event is conceived as a way to return to the origins of the designer, since Ferré's mother came from Cremona, but also as a return to the basics of fashion since the designer mainly focused on simple structure points that he then developed in his sketches and in the actual designs.
"Gianfranco Ferré's drawings encapsulate his entire inner universe: while promptly defining the compass points of the human body – shoulders, waist, legs – the sketches also capture the designer's interests, passions and personality, and this is clear even to people who know little or nothing about fashion," Airaghi concludes.
The exhibition will be accompanied by talks and satellite events such as the lecture "Gianfranco Ferré. Moda, un racconto nella musica" (Gianfranco Ferré. Fashion, A Tale through Music, on May 18th).
Coinciding with the 450th anniversary of the birth of Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi, the talk will focus on the role music played in Ferré's work, retracing the most important soundtracks created for the designer's fashion shows.
"Gianfranco Ferré. Fashion, A Tale in Drawings", Santa Maria della Pietà, Cremona, Italy, April 21 to June 18, 2017
Image credits for this post
All images courtesy of Fondazione Gianfranco Ferré.
1. Fine black felt-tip, colored felt-tip pen on paper, sketch by Gianfranco Ferré.
2. Bustier-dress with topstitched silk taffeta bell-shaped mille-feuille layered skirt and striped silk duchesse bow belt, Haute Couture Collection, Autumn/Winter 1987.
3. Pencil, fine black felt-tip pen, colored felt-tip pen on construction paper, sketch by Gianfranco Ferré.
4. Silk taffeta and silk velvet cape with topstitching; silk velvet dress; Haute Couture Collection, Autumn/Winter 1988.
5. Black fine felt-tip pen, crayon pastel on paper, sketch by Gianfranco Ferré for linen pea coat, silk organza shirt, linen skirt, Ready-to-Wear Collection, Spring/Summer 1985
6. Pencil, fine black felt -tip pen, colored felt -tip pen, gold and silver powder, "Polaroid" photo inserts on construction paper, sketch by Gianfranco Ferré.
7. Silk velvet tank top, Paisley printed and embroidered silk organza skirt with stone appliqués on pleated tulle crinolines; Paisley printed canvas shawl with embroideries and stone appliqués, Haute Couture Collection, Autumn/Winter 1988.
8. Pencil, fine black felt-tip pen, pastel crayon, gold powder on construction paper, sketch by Gianfranco Ferré.
9. Printed silk and lurex caftan with embroideries and sequin appliqués, Ready-to-Wear Collection, Spring/Summer 1990.
10. Pastel crayon on construction paper, sketch by Gianfranco Ferré for silk organza shirt, silk organza skirt doubled in silk taffeta,
Haute Couture Collection, Spring/Summer 1988.
11. Pencil, fine black felt-tip pen, coloured felt-tip pen on construction paper, sketch by Gianfranco Ferré for silk grisaille trench coat, Ready-to-Wear Collection, Spring/Summer 1988.
12. Fine black felt-tip pen on construction paper, sketch by Gianfranco Ferré for tulle blouson with gold embroideries, Ready-to-Wear Collection, Autumn/Winter 1990.
13. Gianfranco Ferré.