Passionate about shoes, Salvatore was fascinated by the modernity of the machines and the production processes, but he could also see the way they posed limits to the quality of the shoes. In the early 1920s, he moved to Santa Barbara, California, where he opened a shoe repair shop. California in those years was the land of the budding movie industry and Salvatore began designing and crafting cowboy boots for Westerns and Roman and Egyptian sandals for the colossal period pieces.
When the movie industry moved to Hollywood, Salvatore Ferragamo followed. In 1923, he opened the Hollywood Boot Shop and began his career as “shoemaker to the stars”, as the press called him at the time. His loyal customers included celebrities, and his popularity grew. Salvatore was ahead of his time, and he revolutionised the fashion of the times by opening women’s shoes, which until then had been laced and closed. He made them more elegant and more comfortable; he created the first sandals. His success was so great that he could not keep up with orders.
However, American craftsmanship was not up to the task of making the kind of shoes he had in mind, and in 1927, Ferragamo decided to return to Italy to open a workshop in Florence, a city with a tradition of expert craftsmen. Thanks to his resounding success, he was able to purchase Palazzo Spini Feroni in Via dei Tornabuoni, and it has remained the company’s headquarters since then. In 1938, in addition to the Florence shop, Ferragamo opened shops on Old Bond Street in London and Via Condotti in Rome.
After the war, Salvatore Ferragamo’s shoes became a symbol of Italy around the world through his many inventions, including the steel-reinforced stiletto heel made famous by Marilyn Monroe, the gold sandal and the invisible sandal with an upper made out of fishing line. In 1948, Ferragamo opened its first New York store on Park Avenue.
Salvatore Ferragamo died in 1960, after achieving world renown and international success. Over the course of his lifetime, he filed over 300 patents, nearly all of which were in the field of shoes, he paved the way for women’s sandals, invented the cork wedge and developed the stiletto heel reinforced with steel. His immeasurable creativity is demonstrated by the company’s current archives, containing more than 15,000 different styles of women’s shoes.
Wanda Miletti Ferragamo
Wanda Miletti Ferragamo’s husband Salvatore made his name creating shoes for movies and fitting them to the feet of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Wanda Ferragamo made her name with a commitment to excellence and innovation. As a young widow with six children to raise after her husband’s death in 1960, Wanda took over the operations of his luxury shoe business. A careful custodian of tradition and of the quality of the family name, Wanda Ferragamo has always been aware that there was a great step forward to be made: to realize Salvatore’s great dream to create other products in addition to shoes that would complete a woman’s look. With tenacity and passion, she and her six children have transformed the shoe company into a world-renowned fashion house with a full range of luxury products.
Today Ferragamo’s products range from shoes to ready-to-wear, handbags to belts. The company’s image has remained timeless and chic, as the business has grown, a tribute to Wanda’s leadership. Beyond glamour and cache Ferragamo is considered one of the most successfully run family businesses in the world. Wanda’s acumen was widely recognized in financial and business circles. She served as a member of the Board of Directors of many important organizations including the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze. Committed to the culture in her country, she has been appointed O.B.E. (Officer of the British Empire) by Elisabeth II, Queen of England, she was one of the two Patrons of The British Institute of Florence and served Vice President of the Association “Amici della Galleria del Costume” of Palazzo Pitti in Florence and she was member of “Amici di Villa La Pietra”. Through her tireless work and exceptional vision, Wanda Ferragamo has built a fashion empire and a legacy for her children and grandchildren. She became an entrepreneur out of necessity and devotion; she became a leader and an Entrepreneurial Innovator through risk-taking, creativity and passion. In 2004, Mrs Ferragamo was awarded the highest of honours, Cavaliere di Gran Croce by the President of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. In October 2006, Mrs Ferragamo has become Honorary Chairwoman. In May 2007, Mrs Ferragamo received an honorary degree from The Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.