Salvatore Ferragamo

Tonie Ong

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Articles on Salvatore Ferragamo

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Italians are known for their shoes. They have a love affair with the craft of making fine footwear—from acquiring the finest materials, cutting them up just right, to constructing everything in place. Clients from all over the world fawn over Italian-made shoes, making them their status symbols as distinguished and wealthy people. More than just fashion, they view footwear as a sort of art in itself—designing and building them into fine works of art. There are even museums dedicated shoes. Consequently, some of the biggest names in fashion are Italian brands that have been founded on shoes. Such is the case for Salvatore Ferragamo.

Black Ferragamo bag spotted before Salvatore Ferragamo fashion show in 2017. Milan, Italy.
Black Ferragamo bag spotted before Salvatore Ferragamo fashion show in 2017. Milan, Italy. Photo: andersphoto

Ferragamo’s Journey to Success

Salvatore Ferragamo Women's Red Shoes

Salvatore Ferragamo has, for many decades, become one of the premier shoe labels in the world. Its namesake founder was born on June 5, 1898, the eleventh out of fourteen children. It’s widely believed that he made his first pair of shoes at age nine. It was for his sister—for her to wear on her confirmation ceremony. In 1914, he moved to the United States to work at a cowboy boot factory with one of his brothers, before eventually opening a shoe repair shop in Hollywood. His work got so much acclaim from the Tinsel Town’s stars during the day that he was hired to design shoes for the screen’s leading actors, gaining the moniker “Shoemaker To The Stars”.

In 1927, Ferragamo returned to Italy and established his brand in Florence. Due to his acclaim from Hollywood, his label quickly amassed a following of wealthy and prominent clientele. In 1993 however, as result of bad management, the company filed for bankruptcy and remained closed until the 1950’s, when the brand gained their prominence again. By 1965, the label branched out into leather goods and ready-to-wear, introducing their first line of womenswear. Almost a decade later, in 1971, the released their first silk and accessories line, expanding the company tenfold. They eventually released a menswear line during the 1980’s, both in footwear and ready-to-wear. Ultimately, a fragrance line was launched during the 1990’s. As a result of all these ventures, Salvatore Ferragamo is one of today’s biggest Italian brands in the world.

Proof of His Fame

Salvatore Ferragamo Shoes

It’s no secret that famous women love Salvatore Ferragamo. From the early silver screen icons to today’s A-list celebrities, Hollywood has often been keen on the “Shoemaker to the Stars”. Hollywood legends such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Greta Garbo have worn Ferragamo countless times, contributing to their lasting effect on style. The founder even made a special pair for actress-singer Judy Garland, inspired by her 1939 movie, “The Wizard of Oz”. Beyond Hollywood, historic female figures of the 20th century also embraced the Ferragamo look. Personalities such as Argentina’s Eva Peron and the UK’s Princess Diana of Wales wore the label’s shoes. Such clientele only added to the already-impressive prestige of the house.

Shoemaker to The Stars

Salvatore Ferragamo Men's Shoes
Salvatore Ferragamo Men’s Shoes Photo: mahaseerfishingcamps

Throughout his career, Salvatore Ferragamo was referred to as the “Shoemaker To the Stars”. Beyond providing footwear to the most A-list of celebrities from the Golden Age of Hollywood to today, he was also a frequent shoe designer for many films. Even when he passed on in 1960, his company continues to make shoes specifically for the art of film. One of his most memorable pairs were blue suede shoes worn by Lana Turner for her 1946 film “The Postman Always Rings Twice”. Using the material again, the company designed a special pair of blue suede sandals for Madonna for her film, “Evita”, which was released back in 1996. A decade later, the label also provided footwear for Nicole Kidman for her epic Baz Luhrmann film, “Australia”, which she co-starred with Hugh Jackman.

International Significance

Model posing ahead of the Salvatore Ferragamo show during Milan Fashion Week in 2017.
Model posing ahead of the Salvatore Ferragamo show during Milan Fashion Week in 2017. Photo:

Even though their rise to prominence has been rocky, the company has been beloved by the entire fashion world throughout the years. Even during its early years, the label was already expanding internationally—and is now one of the most globally-successful brands in the industry. It started back in 1938 when the label opened their first store overseas in the UK. A decade later, they opened a shop in the country where the founder started his career—the United States. From the late 1980’s to the 90’s, the company branched even further out—going to East Asia. During this time, they opened stores in Hong Kong, Japan, China, and South Korea.

Before the turn of the 21st century, they opened their first store in Latin America, right in Mexico city. In 2006, they opened their first store in Mumbai, India, their first one in South Asia. It was also their first expansion outside the usually-attended to East Asia. They eventually expanded onto the wealthy Middle East, opening a store in Dubai city—one of the wealthiest cities in the entire world. From 2010 onwards, that regions saw a massive influx of Salvatore Ferragamo stores, opening Turkey, Qatar, and Egypt. The company also opened their first store in South Africa around the same time.

When one thinks of fine Italian shoes, Salvatore Ferragamo is often what would most likely come to mind. Embraced by Hollywood and beyond, their legacy and contributions to the footwear industry can never be equalled.

Salvatore Ferragamo store in via Condotti. Rome, Italy.
Salvatore Ferragamo boutique in via Condotti. Rome, Italy. Photo: Pio3

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