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Gianfranco Ferré. Under another light: jewellery and ornaments

A splendid exhibition about the great Italian fashion designer at Palazzo Madama in Turin, Italy


Ten years have passed since the death of Gianfranco Ferré, since the day when “the architect” left a huge unmistakable void in the world of fashion. Over the course of this last decade the Fondazione Gianfranco Ferré foundation has been created and a number of exhibitions dedicated to his work, have been organised.

Let’s take a quick step back. It’s the year 1993: I was twenty years old and little interested in fashion as I was convinced I would become a war reporter. And yet I was mesmerised by a Gianfranco Ferré advertising campaign photographed by Steven Meisel and featuring a beautiful Nadja Auermann wearing African-inspired ethnic statement jewels and a crystal-beaded sarong with a palm motif print. It was love at first sight. I still remember it today as one of the my top fashion moments.

It was organised an exhibition, curated by Francesca Alfano Miglietti, focuses exclusively on the bijoux created by Gianfranco Ferrè, demonstrating his passion for history and anthropology and his love for exoticism. The exhibition is in Turin at the Palazzo Madama – Museo Civico di Arte Antica one of the very few Italian institutions included in the prestigious “We Wear Culture” initiative by Google that promotes fashion as a sociological rather than just a style phenomenon. The exhibition display concept is based on the contrasts between the Sala del Senato, where the exhibition is located, and the minimalist adds streamlined iron and glass display structures, perfect to showcase the pieces in all their beauty.

During his long career, Ferré always payed great attention to the accessories as a key element of a successful collection. Therefore, between pins inspired by those in vogue during La Belle Époque and necklaces that relate to the Aztec civilisation with medallions and semi-precious stones, we also find spiral necklaces inspired by those worn by the Miao tribes of Northern Thailand and also necklaces with coin-like medals that closely remind us of those of ancient Greece. Not to mention the wooden bracelets, mimicking Fortuny pleated fabrics and some African bracelets, and the gold-coloured round necklaces with huge semi-precious stone plates. Talking to some of Ferré’s former assistants, I found out the most most incredible thing. Behind the design of some of the accessories there were months of research and study of jewels typical of a certain place in the world, a meticulous study that led to the reproduction of specific pieces with variations suitable to the Western world where he and his clients lived and were part of.

Throughout his career, Gianfranco Ferré represented the ultimate in the choice of deluxe materials. Therefore, simple hair pins were revised and altered in order to become decorative details for fluttering summer evening dresses. Therefore, the rarest furs were used to decorate jackets and coats, the buckles of the belts resembled bijoux, the earrings sometimes appeared to have emerged from science fiction movies. Let’s not forget the bejewelled buttons, a very strong trend during the 1980’s and 1990’s in which Ferré excelled. I must also add that the bijoux on display were never sold but produced exclusively as fashion show accessories: a piece of information that gives to the exhibition an even greater one-of-a-kind aura. I must also add that a faithful 3-D printed copy of one of the pieces is for sale in the museum bookshop.


Turin, Palazzo Madama www.palazzomadamatorino.it

From October 12th 2017 to February 19th 2018


by Maurizio Francesconi


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