Ferragamo: shoemaker to the stars
“Throughout Italy, in cities just as much as in poor little towns, you might see shoemakers sitting in their small workshop, surrounded by shoes scattered all over, working on their forms under the light of a bare light bulb.”
This is how Salvatore Ferragamo, in his own autobiography, described the world he wanted to change – driven by infinite passion and a great dream to design and manufacture the most beautiful shoes in the world.
Ferragamo always had a penchant for shoes: at 11 years old he was an apprentice for a shoemaker in Naples, and at 13 he opened a shop in his hometown. Only a few years later, he moved to Boston to work for a large shoe manufacturer where everything was bigger, more modern, faster. He soon moved to Santa Barbara in California, land of cinema.
There, he fell in love with the shoes on the silver screen. He studied human anatomy, chemical engineering and mathematics at the University of Southern California, in search of the perfect shoe. Hollywood was just around the corner from Santa Barbara, and soon Ferragamo opened his Hollywood Boot Shop.
When he returned to Florence in 1927, everyone knew him as “the shoemaker to the stars”.
After the war, he became a symbol of Italian entrepreneurship and resilience, and created his most famous models: golden sandals, invisible sandals with nylon upper (awarded the prestigious Neiman Marcus Award – the Oscar of fashion – in 1947), shoes he custom designed for Hollywood stars like Greta Garbo and Audrey Hepburn, and of course the iconic metal stilettos for Marilyn Monroe.
The Ferragamo Museum – part of the Master of Fashion Travel Experience designed by Italian Ways – tells this story and celebrates the relationship between Ferragamo and the artists of his time.