Salvatore Ferragamo - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

Italian footwear designer

Born: Bonito, near Naples, Italy, June 1898; immigrated to the U.S., 1914. Family: Married Wanda Miletti, 1949; children: Fiamma (died, 1998), Giovanna, Ferruccio, Fulvia, Leonardo, Massimo. Career: Apprentice shoemaker, Bonito, 1907-12; with brothers, opened shoemaking and shoe repair shop, Santa Barbara, California and also created footwear for the American Film Company, 1914-23; relocated to Hollywood, 1923-27; returned to Italy, established business in Florence, from 1929; bankrupted in 1933; back in business by late 1930s; firm continued after this death, with each child overseeing a slice of the firm; Fiamma took over shoe designing and showed her first collection, 1961; built new stores in Beverly Hills, New York, Paris, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, 1995-2000; bought Emanuel Ungaro, 1996; first fragrance, Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Femme, 1998; Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme, 1999; redesigned SoHo store, 2001. Exhibitions: Salvatore Ferragamo 1898-1960 [retrospective], Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, 1985; The Art of the Shoe [retrospective], Los Angeles County Museum, 1992; established the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, Florence, Italy, 1995. Awards: Neiman Marcus award, 1947; Footwear News Hall of Fame award, 1988 [Fiamma Ferragamo]. Died: 7 August 1960, in Fiumetto, Italy. Company Address: Salvatore Ferragamo SpA, Palazzo Feroni, Via Tornabuoni 2, 50123 Florence, Italy. Company Website: .




Shoemaker of Dreams: The Autobiography of Salvatore Ferragamo, London, 1957.

Salvatore Ferragamo, spring/summer 2001 ready-to-wear collection: leather ensemble. © Reuters NewMedia Inc./CORBIS.
Salvatore Ferragamo, spring/summer 2001 ready-to-wear collection: leather ensemble.
© Reuters NewMedia Inc./CORBIS.



Swann, June, Shoes, London, 1982.

Alfonsi, Maria-Vittoria, Leaders in Fashion: I grandi personaggi della moda, Bologna, 1983.

Palazzo Strozzi, I protagonisti della moda: Salvatore Ferragamo (1898-1960) [exhibition catalogue], Florence, 1985.

McDowell, Colin, Shoes: Fashion and Fantasy, New York, 1989.

Almansi, Guido, et al., Salvatore Ferragamo, Milan, 1990.

Ricci, Stefania, Edward Maeder, et al., eds., Salvatore Ferragamo: The Art of the Shoe, New York, 1992.

Ricci, Stefania, Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, Milan, 1995.

——, Cinderella: The Shoe Rediscovered, Milan, 1998.

Baudot, François, Ferragamo, New York & Paris, 2001.


Infantino, Vivian, "Salvatore Ferragamo (1898-1960): A Retrospective," in Footwear News (New York), July 1985.

"The Flourishing Fashions of the Ferragamo Family of Florence," in Vogue (Paris), October 1985.

Harlow, Vanessa, "Sole Obsession," in the Observer (London), 27September 1987.

Morrison, Patricia, "Feet Were Ferragamo's World," in the Daily Telegraph (London), 2 November 1987.

McDowell, Colin, "Wanda Ferragamo: A Woman of Destiny," in Women's Journal (London), December 1987.

Hope, Emma, "Designed to Last," in Design (London), January 1988.

"Salvatore Ferragamo: The Art of the Shoe, 1927-1960," in the Arts Review (London), 15 January 1988.

McKenzie, Janet, "Shoemaker of Dreams," in Studio International (London), No. 1020, 1988.

Horovitz, Bruce, "Well-heeled Controversy," in the Los Angeles Times, 24 April 1992.

Stengel, Richard, "The Shoes of the Master," in Time, 4 May 1992.

Baber, Bonnie, et al., "The Design Masters," in Footwear News, 17April 1995.

"Ferragamo Acquires the House of Ungaro," in WWD, 3 July 1996.

Barret, Amy, "Ferragamo's Growth Tests Family Values," in the Wall Street Journal, 10 July 1997.

Zargani, Luisa, "Fiamma Ferragamo Dies at 57," in WWD, 1 October 1998.

"Fiamma Ferragamo," [obituary] in the Economist, 10 October 1998.

Moin, David, "Reinvented Ferragamo Rides Luxe Boom," in WWD, 11 April 2000.

Edelson, Sharon, "Ferragamo's New Attitude," in WWD, 25 May 2000.

Moin, David, "Ferragamo, Refined," in WWD, 10 October 2001.


A master craftsman, Salvatore Ferragamo was known as one of the world's most innovative shoe designers, transforming the look and fit of the shoe. He broke away from conventional footwear designs, exploring not only innovative design, but also the technical structure of the shoe.

Ferragamo acquired the basic skills of shoe production while apprenticed to the local village cobbler in Bonito. Ambitious for success, he emigrated from his home town in Naples to America, where he studied mass production in shoe design. The years in the U.S. assisted him in fully understanding the technical procedures implemented in manufacturing his unique design. Owing to his excellent grounding in shoe design exploration and study, Ferragamo fully understood all the technical aspects of shoe production, the anatomy, and the balance of the foot. Eventually he set up in business in Santa Barbara, California, where his original, inventive designs caught the regard of many famous customers. Private commissions came from celebrities including Sophia Loren, Gloria Swanson, the Duchess of Windsor, and Audrey Hepburn.

Initially a designer and creator of handmade one-off shoes for individual customers, Ferragamo introduced the possibility of creating shoes that were exotic and beautiful, yet supportive to the foot and

Salvatore Ferragamo, spring/summer 2001 collection. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Salvatore Ferragamo, spring/summer 2001 collection.
© AP/Wide World Photos.
ankle. Function and comfort, together with an understanding of good design, were the essential elements behind his success. The Ferragamo name is synonymous with style, glamour, ingenuity, and quality. Ferragamo diverged from the restrictions of conventional shoe design and manufacture, exploring the realms of fantasy and creating foot-wear well advanced of contemporary classic designs. He produced shoes for every occasion; ankle boots, moccasins, laced shoes, Oxford brogues, stilettoes, shoes for evening and daywear, including classic traditional styles.

The shortage of leather and quality skins during the war years encouraged Ferragamo to explore new materials, continually searching beyond the realms of traditional materials for aesthetically attractive alternatives. Cork, crochet, crocheted cellophane, plaited raffia, rubber, fish skins, felt, and hemp were successful if unconventional alternatives. His designs were brilliant in concept and crafts-manship, creating many unique and outrageous styles. He was inspired by past fashions, cultures, Hollywood, oriental clothing and classical styling. He created over 20,000 styles in his lifetime and registered 350 patents, including oriental mules with a unique pointed toe, patented by Ferragamo at the end of the 1930s. From the late 1930s his amusing, ambitious, and extreme designs involved the use of perforated leathers, raffia checks, elasticated silk yarns, appliqué motifs, needlepoint lace, sequined fabrics and patchwork.

In 1938 he launched the platform shoe which reemerged in varying forms ever since. His "invisible shoe," created in 1947, was produced with clear nylon uppers and a black suede heel and Ferragamo produced many variations on this design. His innate sense of color extended from traditional browns and beiges to vivid contrasting colors of ornate richness. The technical knowledge attained while developing new dyeing techniques assisted him in combining technical knowledge with his creative color flair.

In 1927 Ferragamo returned to Italy, setting up a workshop in Florence, a city which was to become the fashion center of Italy. He continued to produce custom-made shoes, many of his customers' individual lasts still being in existence today, maintained in collections in Feroni. Using modern production methods his made-to-measure shoes had quality, durability, and style. He was modern in his approach to design, taking advantage of new technology to improve his output, without jeopardizing standards. Through ambition and ingenuity his productivity and creativity improved greatly, leading to the industrialization of his work for mass production yet Ferragamo maintained high standards by overseeing all aspects of production. The mass produced shoes were manufactured under the label Ferrina Shoes, produced in England.

After his death in 1960 his family continued to the firm and in addition to producing quality shoes branched out into accessories and designer apparel. Wife Wanda ran the firm; daughter Fiamma, who had worked by her father's side from when she was a teenager, took over designing and producing the shoes; Giovanna initiated women's ready-to-wear; Ferruccio was at his mother's side and helped run the company; Fulvia handled all accessories bearing the firm's name; Leonardo oversaw marketing and introduced Ferragamo to Asia; Massimo headed the burgeoning North American operations. Despite its successful expansion, the Ferragammo name remains world renowned for its shoes. Fiamma's creations, as beautiful and unique as those of her father, are still the Ferragamo's principal selling point in boutiques in the U.S. and throughout Europe and the Far East.

In 1998 the Ferragamos were bowed by the loss of 57-year-old Fiamma after a lenghty battle with breast cancer. Widely credited with ensuring the family firm's future with her shoe designs, she claimed to have learned everything from her father. In an interview in Footwear News (17 April 1995), she discussed how far the family business had come since Salvatore's death. "I'm sure he would be very pleased, not only for the success, development, and growth of the company…. I think he would be very happy to see his dreams fulfilled, but also that we are keeping shoes the main part of his business."

The Ferragamo clan persevered after Fiamma's untimely death, a year in which they ventured into fragrance with the firm's first fragrance, Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Femme, in 1998 which was followed by a complementary male scent, Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme, in 1999. Several new flagship Ferragamo stores had also opened during the last several years in pivotal markets such as New York, Beverly Hills, Chicago, and Las Vegas.

The legacy of Salvatore Ferragamo is alive and well in Italy, and the rest of the world—where "Ferragamo" means innovation, beauty, and quality.

—Carol MaryBrown;

updated by OwenJames

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