"It is with emotion that today I speak to the students of that which many years ago was my department, where I entered with rather confused ideas". It is 14 March 1997 and we are at Politecnico di Milano, in the Theories and Techniques of Architectural Design classroom. The designer Gianfranco Ferré is speaking. "In these twenty-five years, each of my creations has at least a smidgen - and often much more than that - of what I learnt at Politecnico di Milano. In 2007, Ferré returned to Poli to speak to Fashion Design programme students: "Designing a garment always starts from a two-dimensional phase - that of the idea fixed on the sheet of paper, in the form of a drawing - but already implies a confrontation with the three-dimensionality of the human body. This is the prerequisite for a garment is that it has to fulfil its function as an object of use, i.e., as a product calibrated to the reality of living”. Among the students that day was Federica Vacca, now a professor and researcher at Poli and deputy director of the Gianfranco Ferré Research Center:“I remember those words very well”, Vacca says. “ It was his last lesson, a few days before he left us”.
The history of the Center began in 2021, following the donation to Politecnico by the Ferré family of the archive and headquarters of the Gianfranco Ferré Foundation in Via Tortona in Milan. The space was designed by architect Franco Raggi, also an Alumnus, fellow student and friend of Ferré. It contains, among other things, 22,000 original designs, 15,000 photos of fashion shows and 12,000 advertisement photos, as well as 3,500 garments and accessories. This heritage is a starting point in the hands of Poli: for example, the Department of Design, - specifically, the Density Design Lab, which deals mainly with Big Data and data visualisation, Federica Vacca explains, - is working on the reconstruction of the archive platform. The Department of Mathematics is developing mathematical models “to decode the forms of garments and the processes that, through the construction of theorems, illustrate how a basic geometry can be developed into volume”. An example of this is a haute couture piece from the autumn-winter 1987 collection dominating the scene in one of the rooms, worn by a mannequin. It was chosen as the archetype for some research in collaboration with the Department of Mechanics because, as Vacca says, “it encapsulates so many of Ferré's design principles. An architectural volume generated by geometric composition”. Together with the Department of Mechanics, virtualisation work is underway, starting with a reverse engineering process to study and rework the garment itself and arrive at the creation of its digital twin.