Marella Ferrera – Sicilian Treasure

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.

Sicilian fashion designer Marella FerreraMarella 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.’
Italian Sicilian Catanese Fashion designerThe 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.

Visit Marrella Ferrera’s multi-functional Museum come Artelier in Sicily Catania. Read more about Sicily in Platform Magazine.

Sicilian cap
1) Sicilian Coppola Cap2) Lupara, sawn down shot gun

 

Sono Arrivata – I Have Arrived!

(Sorry people – this is a rough and first draft entry. I am working on the Sicilian’s sister’s computer and have limited time on here. It will be edited when i am back home, just wanted to get this online in the moment – enjoy!!)

I have officially arrived in what i like to think of my home away from home, except here seems far more exciting and far more richer and warmer in all the elements of life that i love that little bit more than in London. On my arrival i was greeted by the Sicilian’s in laws, waiting with beaming faces and skin as dark as a golden desert. They wave to us through the glass windows while we await our baggage and once we meet them on the other side of the doors rapturous gestures, big hugs and kisses are exchanged. They show their affections to their son, the Sicilian. His mum looks at him with pride and happiness to have her son back home. Then they turn to me and bombard me with hugs, kisses and the italian language, which my mind is working over time to understand. The Sicilian’s father, a huge Sicilian masculine character in side a four foot something tiny body tells me my italian is improvng, “Now, let’s work on your Sicilian!” he jokes. He can only be joking.We step outside of the airport and are greeted with a still, intense humid heat, it’s nine o clock at night and the temperature is twenty nine degrees centigrade – the Sicilian’s father looks at me with all my London armour as though i am a crazy person, my new leopard print oversize scarf that i bought earlier this morning from Primark and my black blazer is most certainly NOT NEEDED HERE. As we walk to the car the in laws hustle me out of my excessive attire, leaving me with a vest, jeans and pumps on – it’s still ridiculously hot, there’s no breeze, the leaves on the trees stand as still as stone and the heat leaves sweat beads on the Sicilian’s face.In the car we have the inevitable important conversation and i am so glad that this conversation has come so soon, ‘Cosa mangiamao? – WHERE SHALL WE EAT?’ The options are Carne di Cavallo (Horse Meat) at Achilles, a trattoria specialising in horse meat which the Sicilian and i frequent with his family every Sunday for lunch or Pizza in the mountains – the Pizzeria is located on the drive towards Etna, the Sicilian tells me that during the summer the Catanese (people of Catania) and general city folk head to the mountains where it’s cooler to do their essentials for the day – which is of course eating dinner and eating ice cream.

So – eventually we decide to head to Achilles; Achilles is located in what you could call the ghetto, although amazingly picturesque with beautiful rustic terraced houses and a back drop of castles and cathederals, it is the urban part of Catania. People here are on the grind and doing what they can to make a living, most of which are making their living from food – so you can imagine how good the food is here. As we make our way up to Achille i am surprised at how many people there are simply hanging out, on every street corner there are people, Sicilian people from the age of two right through to eight years old – i am yet to see one foreigner or holiday maker. Every bar or restaurant or Carrozzoni (a food place in the style of a mini hut or mini van usually selling pannini’s and beers) has a gathering of people surrounding it. Achilles’s is set on a narrow main road, along this strip there are probably another twenty trattorias just like Achille. They have huge grills outside where they grill the horse meat, creating fumes and a smell of cooking meat in the hot air, due to the heat the trattorias have had to extend their outside space to accomodate their loyal customers, who want to site outside. So all the trattoria’s have placed their grills on the edges of the road, some have even placed some tables and chairs in the road just so they can get as many people outside. Cars and bikes struggle to pass down the now narrowed main road and of course abusive rhetoric is exchanged even more frequently from the drivers than usual. It is not long after our arrival in Achilles that the Polizia arrive and initiate some havok, telling all restauranteurs to set back their tables and chairs and get their grills out of the road. ‘You would have these tables bang in the middle of the road if you could,’ the police man continues, he cusses like a Jamaican -the Sicilian is known for their oral expressive nature. They are quick, witty and sharp tongued and they never miss a beat.Once we have finished watching the Polizia raid the trattoria’s we eat – for starter’s we head up to the buffet where me and the Sicilian load our plates with Parmagiana (an aubergine cake, layered with egg, parma ham and sometimes cheese), a spinach and cheese cake, red peppers with bread crumbs, Finochio (Fennel) and Crochette di patate. We order half a bottle of the local red wine, which is served in a jug cold, when Salvo (the waiter) brings our wine without any glasses the Sicilian’s mother yells, ‘Salvo!’ Here there are no airs or graces, if you want something just ask and if you can’t be heard, talk louder and if you can’t be seen then shout! So at Achilles this is how you dine and my meal is punctuated with the yells amongst the wiaters and customers calling out at each other, ‘Vanessa! Agata! Salvo!’ When you are a foreigner here it is so easy to take delight in the colorfulness of this culture and the Sicilian people and i always catch myself taking a moment, studying and falling more and more in love with this island. My thoughts are interrupted by my Polpetti di Cavallo (horse meatballs) which are placed in front of me, the rest of the table have a mixture of horse meat, which is cooked like a steak only cut thinly and Salsiccia condida (seasoned sausage), in the centre of the table a tomato, garlic, onion and cheese salad to accompany the meat. I tuck into my food, how i have missed these meatballs – ‘Ho!’ The Sicilian father says, (Ho is the equivalent to Oi), ‘Do you come here to see us or eat our food?’ He jokes. They joke about me arriving looking too skinny and tell me that they will take even more pride in fattening me up. Grazie!So after finishing at Achille only naturally we head to Quaranta, a gelateria (ice cream bar, it is completely packed – inside people push their way to the ice cream counter which features Mars, Forrero Roche, Kit Kat and Nutella flavoured ice cream as well as many many more. Outside there are wicker chairs and tables where we sit and enjoy our ice cream as we would enjoy a glass of wine in a bar in London…