Ungaro

Emanuel (1933). French designer born in Aix-en-Provence, the son of a tailor from Puglia who fled from the Fascist regime. He learned the trade from his father Cosimo “an exceptional man, who taught me intellectual rigor and honesty.” In 1955 he left the south of France for Paris in pursuit of his ambition to become a fashion designer. He worked at a dressmaker’s shop, then was fortunate enough to spend six years with Balenciaga, “my teacher.” Despite already having some experience he agreed to start out at the house as a beginner, in other words, somebody who sews linings and passes pins. At Balenciaga’s school he learnt that “a good couturier must be an architect in the design, a sculptor in the form, a painter in the color, and a musician in the harmony and philosophy.” Strengthened by this experience, he decided to set out on his own and with the help of Sonja Knapp, a textile designer and at that time his partner, he rented his first atelier in Avenue MacMahon. They raised the three months advance on the rent by selling Sonja’s Porsche. It was 1965 and Ungaro had already decided on his aesthetic philosophy: a baroque and sensual melange that appealed to great actresses like Catherine Deneuve and Anouk Aimée. In 1967 he moved into his base in Avenue Montaigne and found famous customers in Jackie Kennedy, Lee Radzwill, the Duchess of Windsor, Lauren Bacall, and Ira Fürstenberg. The appeal of his clothes was found in the use of color and mix of printed fabrics. He is the most painterly of the great designers, using the brightest range of colors. In 1971 he signed an important contract with GFT, the Italian clothing giant from Turin. Strict with himself and with others, and with a determined personality, he creates his clothes while listening to classical music and opera, preferring Rossini. Before each runway show he follows an almost superstitious rite. He asks the women of the family to prepare him a plate of meatballs in sauce, a typical dish from Puglia that reminds him of his childhood. He is married to the Italian Laura Bernabei. In 1996 Maison Ungaro joined the Ferragamo group.
&Quad;In 1999 the house won the top Spanish award La Aguja de Oro. In 2000 they launched a line of eyewear for men and women with Luxottica; a new line of swimwear called Ungaro Sun, a range of accessories called I love Ungaro and the new perfume Desnuda. In 2002 Ungaro received the T de Telva award. In 2003 he created Diane Kury’s costumes for the film Je Reste. His labels are currently Emanuel Ungaro Couture, Emanuel Ungaro Paris (ready-to-wear), Ungaro Fuchsia, and Ungaro Feve. The designers says of his recent work: “I love everything that sings. I love Débussy and Free Jazz, Paolo Uccello and Motherwell, Proust and Peter Handke, colors, Impressionism; I love the warmth of the South and the cold of the North. The couturier is born to be always one step ahead, to guess at desires. I should never speak out. My clothes speak for themselves.” (Maria Vittoria Alfonsi)
&Quad;Summer 2001. Ungaro denied the rumours of him being close to retirement and signed for another four years with Salvatore Ferragamo, the group that owns his fashion house.
&Quad;Ungaro participated in High Fashion Week Moscow, which hosted various high-calibre international designers.
&Quad;2002 was the year that he opened showrooms in the East: Moscow, Beijing, Shenzen Taipai, and Singapore now all have their own Ungaro boutiques.
&Quad;The Pugliese company Mafra acquired the license to produce and distribute Ungaro’s babywear ranges from Spring-Summer 2003. The company’s baby collection is dedicated to 0-2 year olds and 60% of the production is for girls.
&Quad;2003, February. Agreement with the Tuscan company Le Bonitas for the launch of two new collections: Ungaro Sun (women’s swimwear and beachwear) and Ungaro Moon (underwear, corsetry, and sportswear).
&Quad;2004, September. Emanuel Ungaro signed an agreement with the English group Marchpole to develop his menswear, and they appointed José Levi as artistic director of the men’s collection.
&Quad;2004, October. After seven years, Giambattista Valli quit as the house’s artistic director to dedicate himself to his own range, produced by Gilmar.
&Quad;2004, November. The new creative director is Vincent Darré. He arrived from Moschino where he was in charge of the creation and development of the top line.
&Quad;2005, January. Emanuel Ungaro returned to haute couture with a collection of about thirty outfits designed by Darré, which were supervised by Ungaro himself.
&Quad;2005, March. Darré’s first ready-to-wear collection made its debut on the runway. It stood out for the lack of floral patterns that have characterized the Ungaro style over the years, which were replaced by new more geometric designs.