Salvatore Ferragamo is an Italian brand that started at the helm of Salvatore himself. His talent on creating and manufacturing the perfect shoe for women was widely recognized, and especially appreciated in Hollywood. Dana Thomson named Ferragamo “the best shoemaker in town” in her book.
Born in 1898 in Naples, Italy, Salvatore was the 11th of fourteen children family. His love of shoemaking developed at a young age, crafting his first shoe at only 9 years old! Impressive right? The shoes where for his sister’s communion, in white canvas and cardboard. Later on at only 16, he did leave his hometown to move to Boston, which was then the capital of footwear industry. He wouldn’t stay here for too long, as his appreciation for a show could have not been fulfilled in mass. Ferragamo saw endless possibilities once he made the shoes by hand, so he decided to leave to West Coast in Santa Barbara, California (The End of Fashion: The Mass Marketing of the Clothing Business Forever, Book by Teri Agins, page 69).
Salvatore was making shoes for many stars in Hollywood and was known for his creative yet comfortable designs. He was becoming more and more popular amongst movie stars, to the point where he couldn’t keep up with the orders and he needed skilled workers to help him out.
As a result, in 1927, after 13 years of living in Santa Barbara, Salvatore Ferragamo is moving back to Italy. He set up a shop in Florence and he started the development of his company barring his own name. His plan was to create shoes by hand, which would give him more independence when it came to the creative process (read more here).
Fact No. 1 – Salvatore invented the Cork Wedge Heel & The Stiletto
Ferragamo is recognized for many shoe innovations. Most notably, he patented the cork wedge heel, which we all wear and love until today. (The End of Fashion: The Mass Marketing of the Clothing Business Forever, Book by Teri Agins, page 70). As the leather shortage increased during World War II, this new innovation came as a blessing.
In the 1950s Ferragamo did it again! He gave us women the Stiletto heel we can’t live without!!! Designed for the beautiful Marilyn Monroe, it was crafted in alligator skin, and sure as hell it made a show! (The End of Fashion: The Mass Marketing of the Clothing Business Forever, Book by Teri Agins, page 70).
He also created the ‘Invisible Sandal’ for which he received the Neiman Markus Award. The wedge was called the ‘F-heel’ and it was a favorite style of Ferragamo. This shoe overall was a magnificent representation of the endless innovation Salvatore was capable of. It also demonstrates his devotion on always coming up with the perfect shoe!
Paul Andrew, the current creative director at Salvatore Ferragamo, re-launched the iconic shoe in his spring 2021 collection. If you are interested in checking out the sandal, you can do so online or in the store.
Courtesy of ferragamo.com
Fact No. 2 The Ferragamo Women
In 1960, Salvatore Ferragamo dies of liver cancer and leaves his wife Wanda alone with six children. I know what you are thinking… massive panic attack!!
So she was 38 years old at the time when she decided to take charge of the company fully and to involve her children as they grow. Her daughter Fiamma Ferragamo joined her mother first and she quickly learned the trade of the business. In 1965 the company entered the handbag scene under the leadership and influence of Fiamma. Although the early designs were not a smashing hit, in 1990 Fiamma created the brands’ iconic Gancio satchel. The said bag came in different materials and its defining feature was the horseshoe-like logo. More about the topic here, in this book witch I highly recommend! Her other famous creation was the Vara shoe where the flattened bow was introduced. The bow continues to be one of the most recognizable features for the brand! If you want to see more recent accessories, make sure to check my other article here.
Fact No. 3 – Incorporation of Ferragamo Perfumes & Accessories
Ever since the introduction of the first leather goods and ready-to-wear ladies’s collections in 1965, the brand started to develop further. In ’71 the accessories collection was introduced, same time with the silky products. Also, between 1975-1980s the brand also introduced menswear collection, which was well received by the public!
In 1997, Ferragamo proceeds with a joint venture with Bulgari S.p.A, for the purpose of creating and distributing perfumes. Soon after they released the very famous fragrances Ferragamo is known and loved for!
Besides the above mentioned products, Salvatore Ferragamo is also making watches, eyewear and other leather accessories such as belts. Everything with the same fashion and beauty as the shoes! A must try!!
Fact No. 4 – Acquiring Ungaro
In 1996, the Ferragamo family acquired Emanuel Ungaro, which was another Italian fashion brand. This acquisition was controversial to say the least, as the two companies were doing something completely different. On one side, Salvatore Ferragamo brand was the go-to when it came to shoes. Ungaro on the other had was specialized in couture and was making high quality dresses for women.
The two companies stated that the two brands are complimentary to one another and this was the best fit. They were sharing the same values and both were family owned. Emanuel Ungaro would remain president of his brand and minority shareholder. Ferruccio Ferragamo, the president of Salvatore Ferragamo at the time, said that two companies will remain separate entities even after the acquisition. If you would like to read more about the acquisition please check this article here. 🙂
Fact No. 5 – Finances and Creative Direction
In terms of yearly revenues, Salvatore Ferragamo does not compare to global companies such as Gucci or Prada. This is in part because the company is family owned and they were more conservative when it came to adapting to the same strategies as their more popular counterparts.
Worldwide revenues of the Italian fashion company Salvatore Ferragamo from 2011 to 2019. Courtesy of Statista.com
In February of 2019, the group appoints Paul Andrew as the new creative director. Paul was initially appointed as women’s creative director at the brand in 2016.
Along-side Andrew, Guillaume Meilland kept his role as men’s ready-to-wear design director. Together they are trying to revive the brand and make it more appealing to the everyday consumer. Managing to do so is a matter of great debate however. Overall critics say the duo should take more risks and give the audience a more engaging collection. As one article from Business of Fashion mentioned, it is not a lack of tailoring skills that it is holding the brand back. It is the overall conservative image and shortage on the more sensual looks. Today’s woman is both classy and has sexappeal. Men are experimenting with their outfits as well more than ever, so having different looks in a collection would truly help the brand. After all, we do live in the ‘influencer’ era, so plain cuts and ‘non-instagramable’ outfits won’t cut it anymore.
To sum up!
As a personal view, I do believe Salvatore Ferragamo is still underrated as a brand and perhaps this has something to do with their audience reach. Besides the great quality and amazing designs they have for accessories, the brand has such a rich and iconic history that in my view should be commemorated more often.
What do you think Friday Scoopers? Did you know all these amazing things about Ferragamo? Are you more interested in the brand now that you have read this article?
Make sure to let us know in the comment section!