Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Artist: Salvatore Ferragamo

"The Michelangelo of Shoe Designers"

Little is mentioned of Salvatore's influence to the shoe making industry.  Thanks to him, we have the cork and wooden wedges so famously loved and worn today.

Born to a poor family in Bonito near Naples, Italy, at the age of nine Salvatore designed his first shoe.  After some apprenticeship he established his first workshop at twelve.  In 1914, he immigrated to Boston to learn about machine production methods.  After a while, he moved to California and opened a shoe repair shop in Santa Barbara and began his relationship with Hollywood film studios. 

Soon, the Ferragamo name became synonymous to movie starlets.  Ferragmo began making shoes to the stars like Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Joan Crawford, and Gloria Swanson.  To further his understanding of anatomy, he enrolled at UCLA.  With this newly acquired knowledge, he revolutionized the shoe making concept that resulted with comfortable as well as original and attractive shoe designs.  

In 1927, Ferragamo decided to move back to Italy in because he felt that is where the most skilled shoe makers and the best materials are most available.  In Florence, Ferragamo established his first shop in Europe. Despite some poor investments, over aggressiveness in his expansion, and the crash of 1929 Ferragamo was able to keep is shop running and by 1950 he had regained momentum with over 700 employees.  By then he had to use machinery to help with production but each items were and are still finished by hand.


It was Ferragamo who invented the "orthopedic wedges" from cork and used transparent paper with raffia to create invisible sandals.  All became quite fashionable.

The picture to the left here is Ferragamo's platform sandal and heel that is covered with colored suede, 1938.

Look familiar? Check out today's design by Jeffrey Campbell, pictured below.
Solestruck, Jeffrey Campbell Groovy

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