In yesterday's post we analysed an exhibition linking jewellery with architecture. Let's continue the thread by looking this time at an event currently on in Parma, celebrating a fashion designer and architect in connection with a photographer.
The Gianfranco Ferré Foundation recently launched together with artist Michel Comte an exhibition called "Ferré e Comte/Dettagli. Grandi interpreti tra moda e arte" (Ferré and Comte/Details. Great representatives between fashion and art) at the historic Palazzo Giuseppe Garibaldi (until 15th January 2017).
The event was organized to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the arrival in Parma of Napoleon Bonaparte's second wife, Marie Louise of the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine, Austrian archduchess who ruled as Empress of the French and as the Duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla.
As the title suggests, the event is divided in two sections: on the first floor visitors can explore "Gianfranco Ferré and Marie Louise: Unexpected Assonances", an exhibit curated by Gloria Bianchino and Alberto Nodolini in collaboration with the Gianfranco Ferré Foundation. This part of the exhibition features 60 designs and original sketches by the late Italian designer.
Rita Airaghi, Director of the Ferré Foundation writes in the catalogue accompanying the event: "Gianfranco Ferré always had a deep appreciation for and interest in women of power: great women in history, from Maria Theresa of Austria to Catherine of Russia, from Elizabeth the Great to Christina of Sweden. Surely, the 'Good Duchess' - as her adoring subjects and now the ever-reverent citizens of Parma called/call her - enjoys a solid place among the female characters who so keenly sparked the designer's fancy during his lifetime."
According to Airaghi the "Good Duchess" must have inspired Ferré for different reasons: "We are talking about a woman who grew up according to the strict yet substantially bourgeois principles of the royal court of Vienna, who wasn't taught how to govern a vast territory," Airaghi explains, adding that the duchess also "turned her duchy into a happy place during the darkest years of the Restoration period. An enlightened woman, she also took an interest in social matters, introducing Parma and the surrounding areas to a new era and to the world. We loved thinking of her as a contemporary figure. Better still, we loved discerning the virtual points of contact between her and Ferré's style."
Ferré's pieces actually show a sort of dialogue with neoclassical culture, grasping the styles of dress of figures ranging from Josephine of Beauharnais, first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, to Marie Louise.
Designs on display include Ferré's famous white shirts, that could be considered as studies on volumes and proportions; gowns, based on the construction of historical costumes and evoking at times the Napoleonic era, are combined here and there with Ferré's beloved Asian influences. Ferré's fans will recognize designs from the Autumn/Winter 1981-82 collection inspired by the military history of Japan and samurais, plus garments donned by famous models like Pat Cleveland in a 1986 catwalk show.
"Working systematically with this multifaceted and heterogeneous patrimony enables us to deal with it according to a flexible logic, thanks to which it's not impossible to draw from what Ferré created, and consequently propose ever new and different impressions that might surprise and often even amaze us," continues Airaghi, "impressions that are therefore unexpected, as in the case of these 'assonances' with the tastes and passions of Marie Louise and her times."
Comte's "Neoclassic" show curated by Jens Remes in collaboration with Alberto Nodolini and Anna Tavani, features sculptures, light installations and photos. Throughout his career Comte worked with different fashion houses, including Ungaro, Chloé, Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and Ferré, but in this exhibition his passion for art prevails over his commercial photography.
As a whole the exhibition is not a bad one, even though it is clear that its main intent wasn't celebrating Ferré or Comte, but promoting the local territory and one of the oldest and finest buildings in town. Design-wise the displays are also rather disappointing and do not seem to make justice to the garments. The good side? The designs are not displayed under glass cases, so it is possible to admire them close up.
But maybe the time has come for the Ferré Foundation to reshift the attention entirely on the architectural legacy of the late designer: it would be exciting to see a new event focused on the construction of his garments in an imaginative way since a younger generation of design students would definitely benefit from learning more about Ferré's architectural approach to fashion.