- Year Founded: 1927
- Headquarters: Florence, Italy
- Company Website: ferragamo.com
History and Background
If you love wedge heels, you should be thanking this designer.
Salvatore Ferragamo was born in Bonito, Italy in 1898. He was the eleventh of fourteen children and his family was poor. He decided at a very young age that shoemaking was his calling.
He studied shoemaking in Naples, Italy and began his career as an apprentice to a shoemaker. Ferragamo opened his first shoe shop in Bonito, Italy, inside his parents’ house. In 1916, he enrolled at the University of California to study the anatomy of the foot. By the end of his course, he had uncovered the secret to the perfect fit. Inside his shoes, he inserted a steel shank to support the arch. This would mark the beginning of his path to success.
Ever enterprising, he later moved to Boston to work in a boot factory with his brother before going on to Santa Barbara, California in 1919 and opening a boot shop. There, Ferragamo got the attention of the elite and became known as the “shoemaker to the stars”. He quickly became a success and in 1923 he bought the Hollywood Boot Shop.
Shoemaker to the Stars
Ferragamo opened the Hollywood Boot Shop in Boulevard las Palmas in 1923 and it was frequented by socialites. Ferragamo also designed shoes for films, such as The Ten Commandments (1923). After honing his skills for a few years, Ferragamo returned to Italy in 1927. It was that year that he created the Salvatore company in Florence, Italy.
He began to create shoes for some of the wealthiest and most famous women in the world including Marilyn Monroe and Eva Peron. He went on to invent the cork wedge heel in 1938. This was actually a big year for the brand since it also included the opening of a new Florence store as well as boutiques in Rome and London.
In 1947, Ferragamo received the Neiman Marcus Award for having brought Italian artisanal tradition together with modern ingenuity. The following year, Ferragamo opened his first New York store. The store saw much success and was frequented by stars, such as Marilyn Monroe. Ferragamo’s success continued throughout the next decade.
Death and Transformation of the Company
In 1958, Ferragamo’s daughter, Fiamma, joined her father in creating shoes. In 1959, his other daughter, Giovanna, did the same. Giovanna worked on her father’s dream of transforming the company into something much more than just a shoe company. She designed the first resort collection in 1959.
Salvatore Ferragamo died in 1960 at age 62 (his wife, Wanda, took charge of the company) but not before creating several iconic shoes and establishing a business that would go on to offer a wide range of luxury goods. Among his notable shoe designs were a suede ballet flat with a strap for Audrey Hepburn, a sandal with interchangeable ankle socks and 19 karat gold sandal for an Australian customer. He also created the “Rainbow” platform sandal for Judy Garland.
While the designer created a bag to hold his tools, it was not until 1965 that the brand began producing bags commercially. A ready-to-wear collection was also launched that year.
By the mid-Sixties, bags and leather accessories were created in-house. In 1972, Women’s Wear Daily magazine featured a Ferragamo bag. The bag had a hook-shaped metal clasp, the “gancino,” which would go on to become one of the brand’s signatures.
Continuous Production and Success
Up until 1976, Ferragamo had only made men’s shoes upon request. In 1976, a new collection of men’s shoes was released. The company went on to create some of its most popular designs, including the Vara — an iconic pump. They also expanded to have 395 stores worldwide. Today, Salvatore Ferragamo is known for its innovation and high quality.
Salvatore Ferragamo also produces watches, eyewear, perfume and silk accessories.
Best Known For..
In 2018, the Ferragamo Studio Bag made its mark in Hollywood. Several celebrities were seen sporting the bag, including Shailene Woodley, Jane Fonda and Adriana Lima. The bag was popular because of its versatility and classic style. It can be worn as a crossbody or a satchel. It also came in four distinct colors: lipstick red, black, navy and desert. The price of the Studio Bag was about $2,400.
One of Ferragamo’s most popular bags was the Gancino which is produced in a range of materials including plexiglass.
Salvatore Ferragamo is also known for its shoes and belts.
Generally, new Ferragamo bags start at $895 for the Mini Vara Flap Bag and go up to $4,200 for the Sofia bags. A $9,500 crocodile clutch was introduced for Spring/Summer 2017. eBay, Tradesy and Overstock are good options for finding discounted bags.
The bags on their website currently retails in the price range of $625 to $2773 (as of 2022).
Where to Buy
Salvatore Ferragamo products can be purchased at one of 395 Salvatore Ferragamo stores worldwide or online on their website. They can also be purchased in high-end department stores, such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales.
Warranty and Repair Options
You can send or bring in your handbag for repair at any Salvatore Ferragamo store for a charge. They will do minor repairs to hardware and handles, complete color refinishing, re-stitching of seams, zipper repairs and lining repair.
• Salvatore Ferragamo created his first pair of shoes at age 9, as a gift to one of his sisters for her First Communion.
• There’s an exhibit dedicated to his work at Palazzo Spini Feroni.
• Ferragamo was called the Shoemaker of the Stars and was known for creating exclusive pieces for Marilyn Monroe.