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Ferre Conquers Italian High Fashion

January 21, 1987

ROME (AP) _ Gianfranco Ferre, one of the top names in the made-in-Italy label, is the first Italian designer to go from ready-to-wear to couture. His high fashion debut in Rome last summer was met with polite praise but not the overwhelming enthusiasm he is used to in Milan.

Just six months later, on Tuesday night, Ferre came back to Rome with a second collection and took the town by storm.

″I loved the drama,″ said bubbling guest of honor Liza Minelli after the Spring-Summer 1987 presentation in the ballroom of Rome’s elegant Grand Hotel. The Ferre fashion show was part of the five-day couture collections for this year’s warmer weather being presented in Rome this week.

The new Ferre collection, which like the jet set market it is designed for, does not belong to everyday life. It is based on three main themes: hard and stiff, loose and soft, wide and billowy.

The sculptural curves and angles he chiseled out of starched linen and silk to make up wide lapels on shirts and jackets, bustiers, bustles and panniers, came easily to the versatile Ferre, who before shaping clothes had pursued a successful career as an architect.

The designer chose stark white, black and navy to accentuate the rigidity of the statuesque attire which looked great on the runway but could present some practical problems.

How for example do you eat with a stand-up lapel covering your mouth? Or sit down on a ruffled bustle that doesn’t give? No matter to a Ferre fan who would rather starve and stand all night than give up her beautiful dress.

Ferre’s long and loose look is super-feminine and the epitome of what high fashion is all about - beautiful fabric, exquisite design and luxurious detail. The hemline on both skirts and dresses - this time in tiny cheerful mosaic prints - dips in the back like a mini-train, while in front it is slit well above the knee, to reveal a contrasting print on the reverse side. The lower part of the skirt is gathered in tiny pleats and adorned with a myriad of multi-colored sparkling sequins which look like confetti.

High midnight at Ferre is so wide and billowy that it will be hard to walk through a normal door in his beautiful silk and linen pannier skirts with rhinestone buckled belts. Either the Ferre lady will have to slink through sideways or change in the middle of the ballroom floor. These Cinderella creations in pastel shades as well as navy white and black are open in the front to reveal a matching slip in satin or sequined fabric and worn with a simple bustier top.

The hottest number of the collection was the puffy, ruffled evening jacket which was worn over simple gowns as well as sequined skirts and bustiers. Such a jacket in flaming red, matched with a red sequined short strapless gown, was Minelli’s favorite outfit. ″Can you just see it on stage ?″ she exclaimed after the show.

Ferre accessories for the Spring-Summer 1987 included stiff bands of ribbon wore in tightly pinned up hair or around the neck in place of a necklace, as well as big silk flowers either traditionally pinned like a corsage or worn around the wrist as a bracelet. A whole bouquet of silk flowers also made up the most applauded jacket of the evening.

The Ferre show, in many ways retrospective of the 1950 heydays of High Fashion, gained the consensus of the fashion crowd in search of reasons to keep the super quality sector of the fashion world alive, despite an ever diminishing clientele.

″Couture is meant to be the jewel of the trade through which we project the image of our more sellable labels,″ said Loris Abate, president of the National Chamber of Italian Fashion. ″And what better image than the Ferre collection?″

After the show Ferre invited his guests to dinner in an elegant Roman palazzo owned by Princess Aldobrandini, who like the creators of high fashion, supervised every detail of the five course dinner which included pasta with ham and truffles, stuffed wild pheasant, four different types of Italian wine, and fresh red Sicilian oranges.

But before Ferre can sit on his couture laurels he will have to wait for the Thursday night collection of the undisputed king of Italian high fashion, Valentino, who for over 25 years has given the sector its international fame.

The five-day presentations of the Italian High Fashion collections for the Spring-Summer 1987 will end Friday with a gala reception at the presidential palace offered by President Francesco Cossiga.