It Takes Two
Fashion designer Gianfranco Ferré teams up with Franco Raggi Architect to outfit his Milan headquarters
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
The relationship between Gianfranco Ferré and Franco Raggi goes back nearly four decades. They began as classmates in the late 1960's, studying architecture and interior design at Italy's Politecnico di Milano. Then, their professional paths diverged—Ferré to fashion, Raggi to architecture and journalism. But in the mid-1980's, Raggi designed Ferré's first couture salon in Milan. Their recent partnership has been their grandest: Ferré's purchase of an early 1900's palazzo was to consolidate his operations that had been spread over three locations throughout Milan. The completed headquarters is a smart ensemble of the new and the old, the sleek and the opulent, revealing the sensibilities of the two long-time collaborators.
"The interior was totally transformed," recalls Raggi. "I provided the container, and Gianfranco dressed it." (Exterior renovations were the work of architect Marco Zanuso, who passed away in 2001.) Indeed, the palazzo's 48,000 square feet were reconfigured to meet the wide-ranging needs of a fashion empire. Spread over five floors—including a basement and new mezzanine—are tailors' spaces, design studios, and a press office. The piano nobile is the heart of operations as it's home to the fashion-show salon and Ferré's private domain that encompasses his office, an anteroom, and a meeting room.
The piano nobile's 25-foot-high lobby is the prologue to these resplendent rooms. A nexus between Ferré's realm and the salon, it gleams with a floor and walls in Nero di Svezia black marble. A 13-foot-long sofa is covered in silk striped in burgandy and latté brown. Overhead, planes of gold-laminated corrugated metal reflect light from the custom chandelier's halogen lamp. "It's a spectacular demonstration of richness," says Raggi.
The architect's reference to opulence, however, extends past background materials and furnishings. Luxury for Raggi means volumes, too. And he was able to conserve the most important: the 7,500-square-foot, double-height salon, capped by a skylight, used for Ferré's glittering fashion shows. With African wengé flooring and an overhead custom lighting grid, Raggi's 'scheme exudes simplicity. "Fluorescent lamps simulate sunlight," he explains. "For evening effects, black tents obscure the skylight."
For Ferré's office, Raggi created a striking envelope. He clad the walls in rusted-metal panels that have exposed rough vertical joints. "It's like a brutalist boiserie with perfection in the details," he says. African wengé flooring, framed by a double border of maple and black marble, plus a custom plaster ceiling complete the lavish setting.
According to Ferré, the office and adjoining anteroom contain his "stories," as witnessed in the furnishings, which follow themes of travel and art—mostly ethnic and contemporary genres as well as photography. A mirror in a stained-wood frame by a Catalan craftsman mingles with Fabio Titta's sculpture made from salvaged steel. A 20th-century French tailor's mannequin, a Baltic suit of armor, and a Balinese child's dress allude to fashion's sweeping influence. An oversize frame floats around a work by Enrico Baj. Photographs stand on the floor, casually propped against the wall. A prized photo requires up-close viewing: a black-and-white shot from the 1950's of Christian Dior, whose label Ferré ran from 1989 to 1996.
The boldly striped silk in the lobby reappears on the walls of the anteroom, with the burgandy picked up in the deep-red velvet covering the sofa. Artwork by Mauro Reggiani and Lucio Del Pezzo coalesce with Ferré's antiques, such as his early 20th-century wrought-iron candlesticks.
The Ferré-Raggi combination reveals itself again in the adjoining meeting room, a study in two-tone design. Here, Raggi created a real boiserie with walls clad in alternating 1-foot-wide stripes of wengé and maple. The custom 16-foot-long table, with a rusted-iron top and shapely legs recalling a bull's horns, is also his creation. Ferré contributed the 1950's chairs, newly covered in ivory leather for the backs, dark-brown leather for the seats. The taffeta draperies, also ivory and brown, are his influence, too. "Personally, I hate curtains," says Raggi. "But Gianfranco loves them." Spoken like true, old friends.