Marella Ferrera is possibly one of Sicily’s most influential and inspirational fashion designers still living and working in Sicily. Sicily always at the heart of her artistic endeavours, Marella Ferrera has provided the island not only with its very own claim to high fashion, but possibly one of the most imaginative and intelligent fashion designers to date.
Marella Ferrera is an acclaimed Haute Couturier and Prêt a Porter designer who began her career in 1974 after attending the Accademia di Costume e di Moda (Academy of Costume and Fashion, Rome). She has won numerous awards across Europe that have crowned her ‘Best Couturier’ and given her recognition globally. The precious works of Marella Ferrera are not only the proud possessions of Sicilian art and fashion, but are the treasures of Sicilian culture, history and geography.
It is in the creations of Marella Ferrera that one can truly begin to decipher the distinction of Sicilian fashion from Italian, ‘true Sicilian style is not related to the clichés of “mafia, coppola (1) and lupara (2)”, but it is the unique and elegant melange of tradition, heritage; all the conquerors that signed the identity of this land,’ she explains. Using materials that are rustic, raw materials that are geologically Sicilian and materials that may not necessarily be associated with fashion design at all gives Marella her distinctiveness. A Marella Ferrera creation not only acts as an emblem of Sicilian fashion and art, but gives her designs an unmatched exceptionality. The core of a Marella Ferrera design, beyond its sicilianita’ is her desire to create, ‘garments unlike anything you would normally see,’ she says.
A Marella Ferrera dress might be embroidered with terracotta or embellished with thin clay flowers. She incorporates lava rock, rock crystal, copper wire, papyrus, textile paper, cork and palm roots, to name just a few, into her designs. ‘For my professional fulfilment I have always trusted in the potential of my birth land. I have never cut the cord that ties me to Sicily, Sicily is my creative limb.’
The bodice of a Marella Ferrera dress can take up to one month to be created, she describes the process of making a terracotta dress, ‘it must be painted, then it is broken, pierced with holes, and crocheted together like a piece of embroidery.’ The final result is a dress that one might assume to be heavy or stiff due to the materials used to create it. Surprisingly a terracotta dress weighs only a hundred grams. Using science and geography to create pieces without a mind that continuously seeks knowledge and takes on experimentation might seem impossible, but Marella persists to take on challenges to make new discoveries and push physical boundaries. The advances in technology are paramount to her designs, as this provides her with the tools that allow her to reinvent and present the innate materials of Sicily in original ways.
Her creations have a sensitivity about them that evokes her spirit and her sentiment. Her work is poetic and picturesque, whilst remaining romantic and sensual. Marella’s designs can transform any woman in to a goddess, so much so she designed the wedding gown of Princess Elvira Grimaldi di Nixima, the cousin of Princess Carolina of Monaco and frequently sells her creations to Arab princesses. Her designs are favoured as wedding dresses and ceremonial events. A Marella Ferrera dress is for the occasion that is to be memorable, worn by women who want their garments to have significance and discourse.
It is clear to see that she is a couturier at heart. Placing a Marella Ferrera design in the middle of a room transcends its purpose, from protection and functionality to a piece of art ornamenting a space – a memento of her dreams, her childhood, her travels and her origin. She creates designs with such intricacy and attention to detail that she is any fashion technicians dream. Her fashion design and creative process is just as intriguing and inventive as that of the wondrous Karl Lagerfeld or the talented and late Alexander McQueen. One might indeed find a likeness comparing the work of Marella Ferrera to an artist or a sculptor and this is what makes both her and her work so unique and enchanting. Marella’s designs are a castle in the air, a wonderland or a fairy tale that have been miraculously brought to reality. The utilisation of outstanding technique and an approach to fashion design that is out of this world creates designs that are literally like no other, thus far. Marella Ferrera truly is a Sicilian treasure.