“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world!” – Marilyn Monroe, famed for her sex appeal and love of fashion, once stated.
Well I say “Give a girl a Ferragamo shoe, and she can conquer the Universe!”
When it comes to design and practicality, no one can out-stand Italians. They are genetically inclined of producing beautiful things that can be useful in everyday life. There’s one particular Italian who used his talent to create a luxury company wearing his name and leave a mark in the broad world of design. No, his name is not Enzo Ferrari, the man I’m admiring today is Salvatore Ferragamo.
Born in a poor family on the 5th of June, 1898 in a small town called Bonito in Italy, the eleventh of fourteen children, Salvatore from a very young age found his calling. At age nine he made a pair of shoes for himself, and a pair of high heels for his sisters’ confirmation. His parents didn’t want their son to be a shoemaker, cause it wasn’t a very decent job back then, but Italians are stubborn by nature, so Salvatore started an apprenticeship at a shoemaker in Naples. After gaining knowledge there for a year, he returned home and opened a small store in his parents’ home.
He wanted to make a name for himself and be liked by a broader public, so what’s the best place to start an international business? The United States of America of course. In 1914, Salvatore emigrated to Boston to work at a cowboy boot factory, and a year later he followed the stars and went to Hollywood to make made-to-measure shoes.
That turned out to be a great marketing move, because what’s the best way to influence a big mass of people, if you don’t have famous people wearing your designs? It is true now, it was true back in the days. Salvatore and success met in Hollywood. To increase his sales and to make women feel less pain while wearing heels, he studied anatomy at the University of Southern California. That’s where he invented the shell-shaped sole, that helps adjusting the arch of a woman’s foot. It was a very noble and smart move of him to do that, since he wasn’t the one who wore heels.
Influential women like Indira Devi, the princess of Baroda State, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Judy Garland (for which he made the Rainbow platform heel), were praising him. The likes of such women inspired him even more and resulted in him inventing lots of styles such as the wedge heel, the ‘invisible’ sandal, metal heels and soles, the 18-carat gold sandal, the sock-shoe, sculpture heels, and the gloved arch shoe. After thirteen years of living in the US, he established himself in Florence, where he bought Palazzo Spini Feroni, a palace which would later become a museum dedicated to his life and art.
Salvatore Ferragamo died in 1962, at the age of 62, but the innovations of the company didn’t stopped with his death. In 1978 his daughter created the Vara patent ballet pump, a bestseller even today. Now the company specializes in shoes, leather goods, Swiss-made watches, and ready-to-wear clothes for men and women. Salvatore’s dream of styling a woman from head to toe came true with the help of his sons and grandsons, who keep his passion alive. The company always stayed in the family, and now it has over 685 stores worldwide. In 1989 they opened a boutique in Hong Kong, making it one of the first European companies to establish in Asia.
It’s amazing how the dream of a little Italian boy, turned out to be a beautiful reality, making lots of women and men feel better nowadays, hundreds of years after the dream was first projected as an idea. What can we do next, but enjoy, feast our eyes upon that idea and look forward to the next paycheck to be spent on Ferragamo heels.