Salvatore Ferragamo was born in Bonito (near Naples) in 1898, the eleventh of fourteen children. Even before he reached adolescence he revealed a great passion for shoes: At the age of 13 he opened his own shop in Bonito.At the age of 14 he went to America and joined one of his brothers in Santa Barbara, California, where he opened a shoe-repair shop.
Salvatore started working for the movie industry and making boots for westerns and sandals for historic epics. Actors and actresses became aware of the beauty, craftsmanship and comfort of Salvatore’s shoes and soon began to order footwear to wear off the set. Meanwhile Salvatore himself, in his constant search for “shoes which fit perfectly” studied human anatomy, chemical engineering and mathematics at the University of Los Angeles.
When the cinema industry moved to Hollywood, Salvatore followed. In 1923 he opened the “Hollywood Boot Shop”, which marked the start of his career as “shoemaker of the stars”. Famous names such as Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, John Barrymore Jr., Douglas Fairbanks and Gloria Swanson, became his devoted customers and his popularity boomed.In 1927, Salvatore decided to return to Italy, to Florence, a city traditionally rich in skilled craftsmanship. From his Florentine workshop he launched a constant stream of exports to the States.
Despite the great crisis of 1929 which brusquely interrupted relations with the American market, Ferragamo did not lose heart but instead turned his energies to the national market and exploited his inventive genius, succeeding in producing some of his most popular and widely imitated creations, such as the strong but light cork ‘wedges’. Cork, wood, metal wire, raffia, felt and glass-like synthetic resins were among the innovative materials that Ferragamo used to creatively replace the leather and steel which the regime of autarchy prevented him from using.
On the strength of his success, in 1938 Ferragamo was able to purchase the entire Palazzo Spini Feroni, which has been Company headquarters ever since.In the post-war period, all over the world, Salvatore Ferragamo shoes became a symbol of Italy’s reconstruction through design and production.These were years of memorable inventions: the metal-reinforced stiletto heels made famous by Marilyn Monroe, gold sandals, and the ‘invisible’ sandals with uppers made from nylon thread (which in 1947 were to win Ferragamo the prestigious ‘Neiman Marcus Award’, the Oscar of the fashion world, awarded for the first time to a footwear designer).
In 1950 the Company numbered 700 employees and was producing 350 shoes a day by hand. Success was once again international:the Via Tornabuoni shop became an essential stop-off for celebrities such as Greta Garbo, Sofia Loren, Anna Magnani, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Audrey Hepburn.
When Salvatore Ferragamo died in 1960 he had realised the great dream of his life: to create and produce the most beautiful shoes in the world. His family was left the task of carrying on and fulfilling the plan that Salvatore had begun to embrace in his final years: transforming Ferragamo into a fashion house. His wife Wanda Ferragamo Miletti suddenly found herself at the head of the Company.
Thanks to her intelligence, strength of character and clear sighted economic and commercial vision, Salvatore Ferragamo has now become a major fashion house. It was under her direction that the Company took the ‘great step’ of expanding from footwear only into other sectors including men’s and women’s ready-to-wear and silk accessories. Her eldest daughter, Fiamma, started working for the Company when she was 16 and worked for a year under the inspired guidance of Salvatore Ferragamo.
The internationally prestigious “Neiman Marcus Award” paid tribute to Fiamma Ferragamo’s creativity in 1967, exactly twenty years after her father had received the same Award. Since then her talent has received further international acclaim following her creation of famous footwear models such as the VARA shoe, with its gros-grain bow designed in 1978 and still in production, and other accessories that became symbols of the Salvatore Ferragamo style, like the celebrated GANCINO used to decorate shoes, bags and garments. Today, the basic principles underlying Salvatore Ferragamo’s art of shoemaking are reflected in the entire product range. Quality of materials and craftsmanship, comfort and freedom of movement, together with “Made in Italy” elegance, are still the Ferragamo hallmarks that most appeal to the customer.
In 1998 Ferragamo entered an eyewear licensing agreement with Luxottica. In 2007 Ferragamo signed a licensing agreement with the Swiss Luxury Division of Timex Group to produce and distribute timepiece collections.
Official website: www.ferragamotimepieces.ch