In the world of the fashion-line heavy hitters, Salvatore Ferragamo is without a doubt amongst the top. Here are the basic facts:
*Salvatore Ferragamo first went into business in 1927 in Florence, focusing on the manufacture and sale of women’s footwear.
*By 1965 he had branched into leather goods and ready-to-wear collections, and in the 1970s was developing an accessories line and delving into menswear.
*The 1990s saw an emergence of a fragrance and eyewear line, and in the last decade the brand has also incorporated a watch line.
*The company employs over 3,000 employees, has over 600 single-brand stores, and derives the bulk of its income from footwear sales. Impressive, no?
All that success and branding recognition began with one man—Salvatore Ferragamo. Born in 1898 outside of Naples, Salvatore was apprenticed to a shoemaker when he was 11, and opened his own shop in his hometown of Bonito when he was just 13 (yeah, think about that for a second—13 years old). A few years later, he moved to Boston to live with one of his brothers, who worked in a big shoe factory. Although the quantities of shoes turned out by the factory was impressive because of modern manufacturing processes, Salvatore was aware how such processes could affect quality of the product.
In the early 1920s he moved to Santa Barbara and opened his own shoemaking and repair shop—with the booming film industry in that area of the country, Salvatore was able to make his way into the magic of moviemaking by making shoes for productions. In an effort to understand the art of shoemaking more fully, he started taking classes at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles in subjects such as anatomy and chemical engineering. Salvatore Ferragamo’s career as a designer really started in 1923 when he moved to Hollywood and opened the Hollywood Boot Shop.
Just four years later Salvatore returned to Italy, opened a workshop in Florence, and began exporting goods to the United States. With the Wall Street crash and subsequent depression of the 1930s, Salvatore realized his U.S. customers were inadvertently out of the mix—domestic sales became the new focus. After WWII and the havoc and destruction it caused throughout Europe and abroad, Salvatore Ferragamo’s shoes became a symbol of the revitalization of life and industry in Italy.
Salvatore’s fans included many of the most well-known fashion icons of the time period, both in the United States and Europe. Salvatore Ferragamo died in 1960, the company was passed on to his wife Wanda and eldest daughter Fiamma, who had given up her own studies to join the company at the age of 16. Fiamma remained the head of the company until her death in 1998. The Ferragamo designs run the gamut of chic and sophisticated to sculptural and just totally stunning. The company continues to turn out high quality, well-thought-out designs that truly stand the test of time.
written by Heather Cox for Rice and Beans Vintage