Salvatore Ferragamo — it’s one brand name that every celebrity has to have in his or her closet, and most folks dream of owning. Originally a footwear brand, the Ferragamo empire today has evolved into a dream house of clothing and fashion accessories, including a tempting range of eyewear.
Salvatore Ferragamo was born in 1898 as the eleventh of 14 children in Bonito, Italy. At a young age of nine years, he found his calling as a shoemaker after making his first pair of shoes for his sisters. Salvatore pursued this passion by studying shoe-making for a year in Naples, and opened a small store in his parent’s home. He went on to gain experience in the footwear industry, by moving to Boston in 1914 to work at a cowboy boot factory along with his brother.
With all this experience and knowledge in hand, Salvatore and his brothers moved to California, where Hollywood welcomed him and his gorgeous made-to-measure shoes in his ‘Hollywood Boot Shop’, with open arms. Iconic celebrities of the time donned his hand-crafted shoes, earning him the title ‘Shoemaker to the Stars’. Ferragamo shoes were a class apart, with designs that had never been imagined before. It ranged from shoes inspired by Egyptian archaeological finds, to the famous cork wedge heel — that became the inspiration for the famous Judy Garland shoes.
But Salvatore wanted more. He wanted his shoes to always be known not just for their beauty, but also for comfort. So he went on to study anatomy at the University of Southern California to make his shoes not only a treat to the eyes, but also bliss for the feet.
After 13 years in the US, when Salvatore made his way back home to Florence, Italy in 1927, his celeb clientele was not just intact, but kept growing. The long list of Ferragamo fans included icons like the Maharani of Cooch Behar, Greta Garbo, Sophia Loren and Eva Peron.
The Salvatore Ferragamo company got its headquarters in 1938 in the form of a 13th century landmark building, the Palazzo Spini Feroni, which would later house the historical tribute to everything Ferragamo, the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. Salvatore continued to stun the fashion world with his creativity even in the dire times of war, using simple materials to design his shoes, like raffia and cork.
His brilliant creation, the ‘Invisible Sandal’ won him the fashion world’s highest accolade, the Neiman Marcus award. In 1949, Salvatore moved beyond shoes and went on to create his first handbag to actually hold his tools, but one that was so stylish that it continues to be sported by the fashion-conscious even today! By 1950, from brainstorming and experimenting with new designs and models in a workshop in the Via Mannelli, the company’s business expanded to a workforce of close to 700 craftsmen with a production of about 350 pairs of handmade shoes per day. Innovations followed. Shoes were created that were user-friendly and comfortable. Beautiful scarves with Italian symbols, 18-carat gold sandals and a whole range of new products began adorning the Ferragamo catalogues. Salvatore had a dream, to “dress a woman from toes to the head”, and this dream saw fruition through his family — his wife and six children.
Salvatore Ferragamo gifted some classic masterpieces to the world of fashion, before his demise at the age of 62 in the year 1960. The reins of the company were then held by his widow Wanda, who was later joined by their six children. Their eldest son Ferruccio later took over as CEO of the company.
Salvatore Ferragamo’s sense of style and creativity, however, did not die with him. His daughter Fiamma inherited her father’s impeccable understanding of the fashion world, and carried on his legacy by becoming the creative mastermind of and ambassador for the company. Trained by her father for a year, she gave fashion lovers some amazing creations in shoes and handbags. Her innovations in the field of fashion footwear earned her recognition in 1967, when Fiamma was bestowed with the Neiman Marcus Award.
1965 also saw the launch of the ready-to-wear collection by Giovanna Ferragamo. Another Ferragamo child, Fulvia, gave the company a new identity with accessories, beginning with scarves and ties.
In 1970, the company went on to cater to the fashion conscious male, with shoes and clothing specially designed for men being produced by the fashion giant. Salvatore Ferragamo had truly evolved into an international fashion powerhouse — a leading name not only in the world of footwear, but also in luxury shoes, bags, eyewear, silk accessories, watches, perfumes and a ready-to-wear clothing line, providing a ‘complete look’ to its loyal patrons.
It was in 1998, when the Ferragamo powerhouse departed from its tradition of controlling its production and signed a licensing deal with Italian manufacturer Luxottica to release a Ferragamo-branded line of optical frames. These designs soon took the world of optical fashion by storm. The hallmark of the Salvatore Ferragamo eyewear collection, even today, is that it is rich in colours and detail, and boasts of being playful, with gorgeous bright colours, eye-catching embellishments, iconic elements, innovative designs and durable materials. The eyewear has also been known to be inspired by Ferragamo’s roots in shoe-making, like the Arcobaleno sunglasses that were inspired by the famous wedge sandal originally created by Salvatore Ferragamo for Judy Garland in
The Spring-Summer 2012 eyewear collection by Ferragamo is a true reflection of the style and class of this fashion giant. Showcasing its historical roots, the glasses have a bit of the company’s identity incorporated in the frames, be it the iconic Gancino detail inspired by the iron gates of the Palazzo Spini Feroni, or the Vara clasp that was the result of Fiamma Ferragamo’s ingenuity.
Classic aviators and wayfarers are part of this collection, in unisex styles to appeal to both genders. Leather trims, classic embellishments and elegant neutral tones make this collection quite irresistible. The range also pays tribute to the ’50s, with a special, limited edition collection of sunglasses aptly named ‘Fifties’. These stylish, retro-chic, cat-eye glasses have been embellished with glittering crystals, fit for a true fashion diva.
Salvatore Ferragamo’s passion for fashion gave the world a true artist, making the world a better looking place! What’s heartening is that though the legend is no longer with us, his name and legacy live on in a company that still manages to live up to his genius and high sense of style, through a family that’s proving to be deserving descendants of that little nine-year old boy from Bonito, who went on to become a name to reckon with in the world of fashion!
Salvatore Ferragamo Timeline
- 1898: The fashion icon was born.
- 1911: Salvatore Ferragamo started his own shoe shop in his parents’ home.
- 1914: Ferragamo moved to the United States and began working for a shoe manufacturer.
- 1923: Ferragamo opened the ‘Hollywood Boot Shop’, and was later known as the ‘Shoemaker to the Stars’.
- 1938: The company got its headquarters in the Palazzo Spini Feroni building.
- 1947: Ferragamo won Neiman Marcus Award for his ‘invisible’ shoe design.
- 1959: Ferragamo’s daughter Fiamma joined the company.
- 1998: The company signed Luxottica to launch its eyewear range.
— Sanam Khan