Born in 1944 in Legnano, near Milan, he graduated from Milan Technical University in 1969, but instead of becoming an architect, he entered the world of fashion almost by chance. He began by designing bijoux and accessories, working with Walter Albini (Italian pioneer of prêt-à-porter), and the Genoese raincoat company Sangiorgio. In 1974 he created his own label, Bailà, and this attracted the attention of Gianni Trione from Trifurs, a furs house based in Bari, Italy, who were looking for a fashion designer to give a new look to their products. Ferré himself would later recall, “Trifurs had a long heritage of tradition, and a powerful desire for innovation and experimentation … in order to make furs more contemporary, and more versatile.” He achieved Trione’s objectives by creating unusual juxtapositions, combining fur with knitwear, velvet and leather, designing double face farments, and simplifying structure.
After having created his first collection of women’s prêt-à-porter, "Ketch", he founded his own maison in 1978, Gianfranco Ferré Spa. In 1986 Ferré made his debut in haute couture, presenting the first Gianfranco Ferré Couture collection in Rome.
In 1989, Bernard Arnault, chairman of the LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey) Group, invited Ferré to become the new artistic director of French Maison Christian Dior, for the women’s lines of Haute Couture, prêt-à porter and Fourrure. Ferré took the place of Marc Bohan, who had managed the Maison for thirty years, and he brilliantly restyled the Dior look, relaunching their 1950s classics. His first collection for Dior won the Dé d’Or.Ferré remained at Dior for eight years.
Ferré himself was a person with a remarkably balanced character, little inclined to excess and the high society life that often hallmarks the fashion sector. He invariably dressed in immaculate three-piece suits for public occasions.
He died in Milan from a brain haemorrhage on 17 June 2007.