Gianfranco Ferre Dead at 62

The great Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre was rushed to the San Raffaele hospital in Milan on Friday after suffering a massive brain hemorrhage. He died Sunday evening, only 62 years old.

“When I think of Gianfranco Ferre, the idea that comes immediately to mind is the dignity, the calm, the sense of responsibility that he brought to his work,” said Giorgio Armani, upon hearing the shocking news.

Donatella Versace said, “He was a great couturier who knew how to create an absolute chic with details that I will never get tired of looking at and that will remain in the history of fashion.”

In San Francisco, Ferre’s greatest fan and closest friend is Denise Hale, who has just returned from a glorious trip with the designer. The two sailed the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and lounged on the Isle of Capri.

One of the best dressed women in the United States, Mrs. Hale has worn Ferre to her most important events for over a decade (as you see here, when she wore Ferre to the Symphony opening in 2000. )

Perhaps Denise Hale’s most spectacular Ferre moment occured when he was designing the Christian Dior haute couture — not only did he personally design the beautiful dress she wore to her 20th wedding anniversary party at Stars, but he gave it to her as a gift. She looked gorgeous. It was one of those instances when the designer and the wearer of the design both attain the same vision and reach a kind of perfection of design.

Ferre’s tenure at Dior (from 1989 to 1997) had a rough start, with Karl Lagerfeld satirizing the first collection in the drawing you see below. “You like my new Ferre?” it says, showing a woman wearing a reproduction of Christian Dior’s New Look from the 1940s. Ouch!

But it turned out that the Dior period would be a great high-point in his career. The clothing was most luxurious, and most beautifully made in the French couture tradition, but still displayed the Italian’s passion for pristine, uniquely-structured form. The collection was especially popular in San Francisco. In fact, I. Magnin was the first U.S. retailer to showcase it, featuring seven of the couture gowns in its wonderful holiday windows.

After he left Dior, his own collections seemed like watered down versions of his work for the grand couture house — luxurious, but not as luxurious as one would like. Still, while the best may have been behind him, the clothing and photos remained, and will inspire fashionable people for years to come.

A design from one of his last collections for Christian Dior.