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The Amazing Brand Story of Salvatore Ferragamo

  • 23rd May 2020
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The Amazing Brand Story of Salvatore Ferragamo

From rags to riches (and on to fame and fortune) is perhaps everyone’s idea of a successful life. Find out what you are good at, get really good at it, strike out, try to make it out on your own, and then succeed. Sounds like a stereotypical movie plot, right? Well, real life is more or less the same. The conception of the biggest brands and businesses began with a mere idea. Isn’t it miraculous what may have started out as merely an intangible thought goes on to exist as a progressive and growing business?

But hearing all about the journey between that intangible thought to a successful establishment is what makes brand stories so intriguing. Today we talk about another top-notch brand in the luxury industry- Salvatore Ferragamo.

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Needless to say, this Italian luxury brand is named after its founder, Salvatore Ferragamo. Hailing from Bonito, a small town in Avellino located in the south of Italy, Ferragamo was the eleventh child among fourteen in a poor family. His first attempt at shoe making was when he was aged nine, and that marked the beginning of his stellar career. He studied the art of shoemaking in Naples for a year, ran a small business through his parents’ home before moving to Boston, Massachusetts where one of his brothers worked in a cowboy boot factory. After convincing his brother to move first to Santa Barbara in California and then Hollywood, it was there that Ferragamo received his American big break, the first of many. He opened a shop to repair and design shoes for stars in the cinema. But his fabulous heel designs led him ponder upon a pressing question: “Why did the shoes that were most easy on the eyes hurt the feet so much?”

Every great artist knows fashion is as much about comfort as it is about glamour. And to answer his question, Ferragamo went on to study anatomy at the University of Southern California.

After spending thirteen long years in the US, Ferragamo returned to Florence, Italy and began creating shoes for women. He created masterpieces for celebrities like Marilyn Munroe and Eva Peron, establishing himself as a celebrated shoemaker. Although his success may have been derailed by his filing for bankruptcy in 1933 due to bad management processes and economic pressures, he continued to expand operations during the 1950s to a workforce of around 700 expert artisans that produced 350 pairs of handmade shoes a day. Safe to say, Salvatore Ferragamo created history.

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After his death in the year 1960, his wife Wanda and later their six children ran the company. Although the brilliant founder ceases to exist, the Salvatore Ferragamo brand has an impressive international presence which has expanded its operations to include luxury shoes, bags, eyewear, silk accessories, watches, perfumes and a ready-to-wear clothing line.

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Designs, Inventions And Patents

The Rainbow

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Ferragamo was extremely creative and unique in his line of work. ‘The Rainbow’, created in 1938 marked the return of the platform shoe to the West. He created this rare piece of beauty for the American singer and actress Judy Garland to wear in her iconic song ‘Over the Rainbow’ performed in the Wizard of Oz feature film in 1939. What is so interesting about this heel is that it was crafted using shaped slabs of cork covered in suede to build up the wedge and gold kidskin for the straps. This creation was purely a result of sheer experimentation with new materials due to war time rationing during the second World War. So, if you ever find yourself doubting the power of ‘Best out of Waste’- this is all the proof you need.


The Cage Heel


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Perhaps one of the most celebrated and popular designs of the Salvatore Ferragamo collection, the Cage Heel was designed in 1955 and became a sensational beauty. Although the heel was hollow and light, it was exceptionally strong. This only reinforces how great an artist Ferragamo was- fashion to him not only meant sophistication, but also sensibility.


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In 1947, Ferragamo designed an upper made of continuous nylon thread, a wedge or an F-shaped heel, making the top portion of the sandal seem ‘invisible’. He won the Neiman Marcus award for this shoe, which is basically an Oscar for Fashion!


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Need I even highlight the importance of this invention? Wedges have become such an integral part of daily fashion footwear. The economic sanctions against Italy made it difficult for Ferragamo to gain access to quality steel that he had imported from Germany. It was his experimentations with layers and layers of cork that led him to invent the brilliant concept of the wedge heel. Funnily enough, this creation wasn’t inspired from the fashion accessories at the time, but architectural structures adorning the New York skyline, like the Chrysler building. Inspiration can indeed be found in unusual places!

Vara Pumps

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Another gorgeous Ferragamo design, the Vara Pumps were created in 1978 by Salvatore’s eldest daughter Fiamma. Now we know the genius runs in the genes!


The Gloved Arch

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Ferragamo designed and patented a high heeled shoe in the year 1952 that used the same type of leather for the arch of the foot and the upper. He did this by limiting attachment of the sole to the front and the heel, making the shoe strong, yet flexible like a glove. This design became an undeniable success, as the combined power and elegance of the sandal made it a favourite among many.

After completing almost 92 glorious years of its existence, the legacy Salvatore Ferragamo left behind still lives on. One of the greatest fashion brands in the world today, the Salvatore Ferragamo brand resides in stores across the globe, with a collection that is unique, tasteful and extremely gorgeous.

Indeed, true art never dies.



Anishka Kataria is a student doing her A levels.Over and above that, she is a voracious reader indulging in everything from thrillers to poetry. She is also an aspiring writer and musician; strumming the guitar & crooning her way through life.... read more


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