Fashion Heroes: Salvatore Ferragamo

 
New fashion begins in the mind of the designer. A designer must not stifle all his ideas because the world is not ready yet.
— Salvatore Ferragamo
 

Worn and loved by women of all ages, Ferragamo shoes have become a must-have item in every woman's shoe closet. The evergreen designs have been spotted on many influential women throughout history. They include actresses Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren as well as stylish dignitaries, such as Princess Diana and Evita Peron. 

It all started with a man named Salvatore Ferragamo, who had a burning passion for the craftsmanship of making shoes. Born in 1898 in Bonito, Italy, Ferragamo made his first pair of shoes at the tender age of 9, for his sister to wear at her confirmation ceremony. Hungry for more, he began to hone his skills in the art of shoemaking in Naples. In his teenage years, Ferragamo moved to Boston and began working in a cowboy boot-making factory with his brothers. It was there that the young Ferragamo began harbouring a dream of opening his own shoe store.

Salvatore Ferragamo with screen legend Sofia Loren

Ferragamo convinced his brothers to move to California, where they set up a home, first in Santa Barbara and then Hollywood. It was in Hollywood that Ferragamo found success as a shoemaker. He started out by opening a shop for shoe repairs as well as for made-to-measure shoes. The latter soon became prized items among celebrities, which led to Ferragamo's long-term working relationship with the studios, designing shoes for the movies. 

Being an innovative soul, Ferragamo wanted his shoes to be more than aesthetically pleasing. He wanted his shoes to fit perfectly and be comfortable. He went on to study anatomy at the University of Southern California. This revolutionised his shoes and made way for new innovative models. 

After 13 years of being in America, Ferragamo decided to return to Italy. Needless to say, the success in Hollywood followed him and he began made shoes for the most wealthy and powerful people of the time.

Ferragamo patented lots of different shoe innovations such as different leather substitutes, sole materials. He also experimented with unusual materials for shoes at the time, such as glass transparent bakelite and cork. 

Despite the massive success, Ferragamo filed for bankruptcy in 1933 during The Great Depression. This, thankfully, was short-lived as the company began to recover the losses over the next few years. By 1950, Ferragamo employed 700 expert artisans and was producing 350 handmade shoes everyday. 

(left) The classic cork wedges; (right) Marilyn Monroe's favourite stilettoes

The daring artist has opened the way for the brand to deliver both daring objet d’art and elegant traditional pieces worldwide. He experimented with style and material and has produced well/known signature looks such as the Vara pumps, Ribes pumps and cork wedges. 

Indeed, Salvatore Ferragamo is a fashion hero who is also a visionary. To date, his designs remain as some of the most well-regarded creations that combined comfort and style.