Anthony Ferrara is the real King Midas. The prolific designer turns metal into glittering liquid gold, reigning over all things mesh. Working both under his eponymous label as well as the Whiting & Davis label, Anthony Ferrara has either created or inspired every single piece of metal mesh clothing or accessory in production over the past 45 years, dressing the likes of Cher, Tina Turner, Farrah Fawcett, and Lenny Kravitz and gracing countless magazine covers. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Anthony and his wife Rose at his studio in Mansfield, Massachusetts, and are honored to share his story.
PHOTO: THE SUN CHRONICLE | ANTHONY FERRARA WITH HIS HALTER
Anthony grew up in the New England suburbs outside of Boston. From a young age, he always liked being creative and loved to draw. Realizing this, his mother sent him to a youth art program at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he took classes for three years. It was there he discovered a new world through a fashion illustration class. At that moment, he knew that fashion was his calling.
Anthony went on to study fashion design at the School of Fashion Design in Boston. He learned illustration, design, patternmaking, grading, and couture sewing techniques, all with a business-minded industry focus. He spent much of his time designing and constructing Harris tweed suiting both in class and after graduating, creating custom classic suiting for his clientele- though draping couture gowns in flowy chiffons and silks was more his speed.
ANTHONY FERRARA | CREPE MESH CUTOUT DRESS
ANTHONY FERRARA | CREPE MESH DRAPED BACK GOWN
Anthony discovered metal mesh while holiday shopping with his mother at the Whiting & Davis store. He would buy heavily discounted handbags and other accessories and deconstruct them, using the mesh as accents for his designs. He eventually connected with the sales manager, who sold the mesh to him in sheets. His creations were spotted by the president of Whiting & Davis, who commissioned a mesh outfit for his wife. The design was so stunning that it led to a collection for the company and decades-long partnership.
PHOTO: PAPER CITY | FARRAH FAWCETT AT 1978 OSCARS WEARING WHITING & DAVIS BY ANTHONY FERRARA COMMISSIONED BY STEPHEN BURROWS
PHOTO: FOOTWEAR NEWS | TINA TURNER AT 27TH GRAMMY AWARDS 1985 WEARING WHITING & DAVIS BY ANTHONY FERRARA
Over the years, Anthony Ferrara's eye-catching, iconic designs have inspired many others, from Versace and Stephen Burrows, mostly while unsigned under the Whiting & Davis label. He recounted stories of Tina Turner requesting a red dress for the Grammys from her designer and of Farrah Fawcett's golden Stephen Burrows-designed Oscars look- both commissioned with Whiting & Davis and created by Anthony Ferrara. He loved that Cher owned many tops, all picked out herself from Sunset's famed Pleasure Dome boutique. From covers of Cosmo and spreads in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, we're honestly more surprised that Ferrara isn't a household name. Watch the full video for Anthony's stories!
Many of Ferrara's vintage pieces tend to have had their labels removed by their previous owners, and many only had a simple removable hangtag- but if you're wondering "Is this Whiting or is it Ferrara?," you can be sure it was designed by Anthony Ferrara. He also points out that mesh designed by others tends to come apart more frequently, especially if made with inferior non-Whiting, non-brass mesh: the seams can't bear the stress and weight of the garment itself, and it begins to pull itself apart by the sheer force of gravity.
"This halter will be the best-selling halter I will ever do. It was, and it still is."
PHOTO: ANTHONYFERRARAMESH.COM | KIM KARDASHIAN IN MESH HALTER
Anthony is known for his signature pointed rectangle halter top, a simple rectangle of mesh with four leather straps and felt facing. The simplicity of the design is what makes it a stunning piece, with the bias grain dripping down the body like liquid mercury. He knows and understands the metal, working with its form rather than against. Never straying far from his signature self-proclaimed "Flash & Trash" skin-baring style, Anthony instead experimented with different treatments, colors, and finishes for the mesh. Acid etching, hydro dipping, metallic foiling, spray painting, and Swarovski crystal rhinestones were just some of the techniques applied to sheets of metal mesh tiles. He even made a solid 18k gold mesh Absolut Fashion dress valued at $500,000 for an Absolut Vodka campaign!
We were lucky to get a tutorial on working with the mesh as Anthony walked us through the importance of working on the bias and how the tedious process of hand-joining pieces prong-by-prong using an awl is more akin to knitting rather than sewing. Knitting with metal is how he gets the mesh to move like fluid jersey.
"Let the mesh do what it wants to do."
PHOTO: RICHARD BERTONE | STAINED GLASS ART
PHOTO: ANTHONY FERRARA | POTTERY
PHOTO: RICHARD BERTONE | STAINED GLASS ART
Anthony currently spends much of his time continuing to create in other mediums, having taken up pottery and stained glass- but admits that he'll never really be able to give up thinking about and working with metal mesh. He's slowing going through his personal archives and parsing down his atelier- to make way for a stained glass studio. We're grateful to shine a spotlight on a living legend who has spent too long flying under the radar. We all need a little more Ferrara in our lives!
Pieces are available in-store and online, with more pieces coming soon as we try to keep up with the new inventory direct from Anthony Ferrara's personal collection.