Ferre started his career as an accessories and jewelry designer, and then moved on to clothes.
His unofficial title as Italy’s architect of fashion came thanks to the degree in architecture he obtained in 1969 from Milan’s Polytechnic Institute that inspired his designs.
He started his own company in the mid-1970s, but his major leap came in 1989, when he was tapped by Bernard Arnault to be the top designer for Christian Dior. At the time, it was almost unheard of for a non-French designer to head the venerable Parisian house.
Ferre stayed on at Dior until the fall of 1996, when he returned to Milan to tend to his own men’s and women’s collections.
Ferre’s style was based on simple and structured lines, and the white blouse became one of his trademarks. His sophisticated suits were worn by businesswomen around the world.
In 2002, Ferre sold Gianfranco Ferre to It Holding, but he stayed on as creative director.
Ferre was known both for his womenswear and his Fourrures furs line.
He was big in Italian fashion in size as well as standing. The portly, bearded and bespectacled designer wore trademark three-piece suits – a world away from the older Giorgio Armani’s clean-shaven, trim looks and T-shirt and jeans image.
“I always observed his work and particularly admired him for his coherence and the intellectualism and artistry upon which he based his fashion philosophy until the end,” Armani said in a statement.