WP Archive & Gianfranco Ferrè: a treasure to be discovered

For the next industry project, Art Management and Curating Art & Fashion students had the opportunity to spend a day in the WP Archive in Bologna, discovering the treasure of the famous fashion designer Gianfranco Ferrè’s creations.


By Jonathan Paonetti. Cover Image: Massimo Romanelli

The experiences at Istituto Marangoni Firenze never cease to impress. The new industry project involving Art Management and Curating Art & Fashion Masters’ students is now revealed: WP Archive and Gianfranco Ferrè will inspire the work of Istituto Marangoni Firenze students over the next few months. 


The history of Gianfranco Ferrè dates back to the 1970s when the designer – a graduate in architecture from the Politecnico di Milano – founded his brand, destined to rise to the highest peaks of the fashion industry. Among numerous collections and collaborations, the couturier was also the first Italian designer to be the creative director at Christian Dior, covering this role from 1989 to 1996. The brand, one of the symbols of Italian history, was active until a few years after Ferrè’s untimely passing in 2007.
The story of WP (Work in Progress) dates back to 1985 when the brand created the first store inspired by the “Made in the U.S.A.” tradition in Italy. Since then, the company experienced a crescendo that led it to acquire archives of international brands such as Baracuta, Spiewak and Avon Celli, culminating with the Gianfranco Ferrè brand in 2014. The latter includes clothes and accessories belonging to the great designer’s men’s and women’s collections, objects used to draw inspiration for his fashion shows and around 5500 books – about art, fashion, customs, history, photography, and travel, among others – all part of the couturier’s personal library.


These treasures are collected in the WP headquarters in Bologna. Istituto Marangoni Firenze students were welcomed there and had the opportunity to spend a day dedicated to research and amazement to create an exhibition dedicated to menswear and womenswear by Ferrè, which will take place during Pitti Immagine Uomo in June 2023. 

Immediately after taking a tour of the vast sheds containing clothing and furniture, the students, divided into two groups, began their first intense research from the documents archive to apparel.
Dozens of folders collected in a room were carefully analysed, surprising students and tutors: the stylist’s jaw-dropping sketches surfaced among the photos of models and the couturier himself, among technical data sheets and patterns, leaving everyone impressed with the beauty, details and precision of each design.On the other hand, hundreds of clothes ranging from prêt-à-porter to haute couture were hanging in a warehouse and ready to be discovered. While archive catwalk photos made the students dream, they could now touch each piece’s high tailoring and quality, understanding firsthand the attention given to each detail: veritable works of art worth exhibiting in a museum for their immense beauty. 


From the architect/designer’s iconic white shirts to the leather short-skirt worn by Naomi Campbell and the red dress with gold baroque prints, the research was a real leap into the glorious past of Italian design, rediscovered 16 years after the great designer’s death.


Echoing the name of the company that partnered with Istituto Marangoni Firenze, the student’s activity on this major project is also a work in progress, which will take shape and be visible to all in the next few months. You just have to wait for the final result!

Images by Massimo Romanelli

Jonathan Paonetti is an Arts Management postgraduate student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

Massimo Romanelli is an Arts Management postgraduate student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

Nikola Tomova is an Curating Art and Fashion postgraduate student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

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