Salvatore Ferragamo - Biography

Salvatore Ferragamo (June 5, 1898 - August 7, 1960) was a 20th century Italian footwear designer, providing Hollywood's glitterati and many others with unique hand-made designs and spawning an emporium of luxury consumer goods for men and women, with stores in some of the most important cities of the world. Ferragamo started his career in California during the 1920s, initially creating specific designs for Hollywood productions.

Salvatore Ferragamo

The Company, Salvatore Ferragamo Italia S.p.A., founded in 1927, is one of the most prestigious and internationally known luxury brands, with more than 450 stores in over 55 countries. Footwear, handbags and small leather goods, scarves and ties, men's and women's ready to wear, bijoux, watches, fragrances and eyewear are the products created and marketed by Salvatore Ferragamo.
In addition to its historical Florence flagship store in Palazzo Spini Feroni, Salvatore Ferragamo has 2 flagship stores in Milan, 2 in Rome and another 14 stores in prestige high-streets in Naples, Genoa, Turin, Capri, Portofino and Venice.
In Europe it has 58 directly controlled stores, including a flagship in Paris's Avenue Montaigne and one in London's Old Bond Street. In France, Germany, the UK and Spain the brand is to be found in locations in major cities, as well as in Brussels, Montecarlo, Vienna and Amsterdam.
Salvatore Ferragamo operates throughout the territory from Canada to Hawaii, with 25 directly controlled points of sale. In the United States, Ferragamo holds 15 boutiques in California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York with three more planned to open in 2007 in Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Of particular note the flagship stores in New York (Fifth Avenue), Beverly Hills, Boston (Copley Place) and Honolulu. In addition to its free-standing stores, there are many shop-in-shops and corners in top American department stores. Salvatore Ferragamo recently extended its direct control in Central and South America by setting up Ferragamo Mexico, which directly handles 10 points of sale in the country. It also has a select distribution circuit in numerous countries, from Venezuela to Brazil and Colombia. Salvatore Ferragamo has had directly controlled operations in this key country since the early 70s and can now count on a distribution network of 64 directly controlled points of sale. It has two flagship stores, one in Tokyo, in the Ginza district, and the new flagship in Osaka, opened in October 2004. Twenty-seven percent of its revenue in 2005 (575m Euros) came from Japan only. Through its Hong Kong headquarters, Salvatore Ferragamo controls its distribution operations in the following ten countries in Asia and Oceania: Hong Kong (flagship in Canton Road), Taiwan, China (flagship in Shanghai), Korea (flagship in Seoul), the Philippines (flagship in Manila), Singapore (flagship in Paragon), Thailand, Malaysia (duplex flagship will be open at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur this September), Indonesia and Australia - totalling 64 directly controlled stores.

Salvatore Ferragamo was born in 1898 in Bonito, near Naples, Italy, the eleventh of 14 children. After making his first pair of shoes at age nine, for his sisters to wear on their confirmation, young Salvatore decided that he had found his calling. He always had a passion for shoes. After studying shoemaking in Naples for a year, Ferragamo opened a small store based in his parent's home. In 1914, he emigrated to Boston, where one of his brothers worked in a cowboy boot factory. After a brief stint at the factory, Ferragamo convinced his brothers to move to California, first Santa Barbara then Hollywood. It was here that Ferragamo found success, initially opening a shop for repair and made-to-measure shoes, which soon became prized items among celebrities of the day, leading to a long period of designing footwear for the cinema. However, his thriving reputation as 'Shoemaker to the Stars' only partially satisfied him. He could not fathom why his shoes pleased the eye yet hurt the foot, so he proceeded to study anatomy at the University of Southern California. After spending thirteen years in the United States, Ferragamo returned to Italy in 1927, this time settling in Florence. In 1927 he returned to Florence and began to fashion shoes for the wealthiest and most powerful women of the century, from the Maharani of Cooch Behar to Eva Peron to Marilyn Monroe. In 1929 he opened a workshop in the Via Mannelli, concentrating his efforts in experimenting with design, applying for patents for ornamental and utility models and some related inventions. Forced to file for bankruptcy in 1933 due to bad management and economic pressures, Ferragamo nonetheless expanded his operation during the 1950 to a workforce of around 700 expert artisans that produced 350 pairs of hand-made shoes a day. Ferragamo was always recognized as a visionary, and his designs ranged from the strikingly bizarre objet d'art to the traditionally elegant, often serving as the main inspiration to other footwear designers of his time and beyond. Salvatore Ferragamo died in 1960 at the age of 62, but his name lives on as an international company, which has expanded its operations to include luxury shoes, bags, eyewear, silk accessories, watches, perfumes and a ready to wear clothing line. At his death his wife Wanda and later their six children (Fiamma, Giovanna, Fulvia, Ferruccio, Massimo and Leonardo) ran the Ferragamo company. His most famous invention is arguably the "Cage Heel". Fiamma (Salvatore's eldest daughter prematurely died in 1998) inherited her father's inimitable talent and came up with the "Vara pumps" in 1978.

The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum opened in Florence in 1995. Located on the second floor of Palazzo Spini Feroni, the Museum extends over four rooms and comprises A collection of over ten thousand models of shoes created by Ferragamo over forty years, from the Twenties to his death in 1960. The Museum also has a small collection of period shoes (18th and 19th century), a collection of clothing from 1959 onwards, a collection of handbags from 1970, and a huge document archive.