Make your own free website on
The history of "The shoemaker of the stars" 
Salvatore Ferragamo was born in Bonito, a village situated 100 Km outside Naples. When he was just nine years old, he created his first shoe design, a pair of white shoes for his sister’s communion. Salvatore knew that he wanted to be a shoemaker. He aspired to distinguish shoemaking as an art combining perfection and function with aesthetics. As the son of poor parents, he decided that the only way he would earn a living was moving to another country. 
1911. At the age of 13, he was already in charge of a shop in Bonito with six workers. But four of his brothers were already in America and insisted that he join them.
1914. Salvatore headed straight for Boston where one of his brothers worked in a shoe factory. The factory’s production line manufacted large quantities of shoes and did not match Salvatore’s belief that every pair should be the result of detailed research and design. He convinced his brothers to move to California, first Santa Barbara, then Hollywood, where he opened a shop for repairs and made-to-measure shoes which soon became famous. 
Salvatore began to design footwear for the cinema. Cowboys boots, Roman and Egyptian sandals for historical films, and elegant styles for the stars of the screen. From Mary Pickford to Rudolf Valentino from Pola Negri to John Barrymore, they soon became his loyal clientele. The secret of his success was attributed to the extraordinary fit which made his shoes both comfortable and functional. Ferragamo began to study the anatomy of feet at the University of Los Angeles to perfect his art. In response to his growing popularity, Salvatore had to think of a unique way to expand his organisation without resorting to machine manufacturing. He decided to devise a human assembly line employing highly-skilled shoemakers to construct each part of the shoe by hand. As this type of labour was unheard of in America, Ferragamo decided to return to Italy and establish a base in Florence. He opened his first workshop with sixty workers in the via Mannelli and after a short time was able to return to America with his first samples. This marked the beginning of a constant flow of exports from Italy to the USA. However this period was far from easy. 
The huge economical world crisis in 1929 and a incapable Managing Director, were the cause of bankruptcy. The only solution was to concentrate on the home market, and a new Italian clientele soon replaced the international one. The restriction of using foreign goods, due to constraints, accelerated and expanded Ferragamo’s ideas and, during this period, he produced some of his most creative inspirations. An example of this is the famous cork wedge, which became a registered trademark in 1936, and the cellophane or rafia uppers. 
Salvatore managed to buy the Spini Feroni building where he had already transferred his workshop. Situated on the via Tornabuoni and one of the most eminent examples of medieval Florentine architecture, the building is still home to the Ferragamo company. Salvatore then acquired "Il Pelagio", a Renaissance villa, situated in the hills of Fiesole, which became the home of Ferragamo family.
1940.  He married Wanda Miletti, the daughter of the local doctor of Bonito and they had six children. 
In the years following the war, Ferragamo was once again in a position to export to Europe. 
Salvatore exported to USA. In this year he produced what has become known as "the invisible shoe". This acclaimed creation won the prestigious Neiman Marcus Award (the Oscar of fashion) which for the first time was presented to an italian. During the 1950’s the Ferragamo company employed a workforce of 700 and produced 350 pairs for shoes per day made entirely by hand. The success was once again international and visitors to the palazzo Spini Feroni headquarters included Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, Paulette Goddard, Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani. 
At this time the machinery was first introduced to Ferragamo footwear production. Salvatore still had strong beliefs in hand crafting, so the machinery was operated under close human supervision and all finishing touches were done by hand. 
1960. Salvatore prematurely died. The business has been continued by his wife and their six children. Under their direction, Salvatore’s dream to dress a woman from "toe to head" has been realised.
The shoe still remains at the heart of the Ferragamo company. The workmanship and famous fit (with a range of 7 widths for every size) result in a very high quality product that is practically "made-to-measure". The Ferragamo business now produces a complete range of product which sell world-wide. Bagsand suitcases, men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections, scarves, ties, belts and men’s footwear, complement the ladies shoe collection. 
Salvatore’s principles of quality, which transformed shoes into works of art, still guides all the divisions at the Ferragamo company today. 
The Ferragamo Family

From left to right: Giovanna Gentile Ferragamo, Ferruccio Ferragamo, Fiamma di San Giuliano Ferragamo, Wanda Ferragamo, Leonardo Ferragamo,Massimo Ferragamo e Fulvia Visconti Ferragamo.

Spini Feroni Palace, Florence, May 1995.

Wanda Ferragamo, wife of the "Shoemaker of the Stars", heads the company together with her six children. The company is controlled 100 per cent by the Ferragamo family. Wanda holds the position of President.
Fiamma di San Giuliano Ferragamo is Vice-President and carries on the division of women’s footwear, handbags, luggage and small leather goods.
Giovanna Gentile Ferragamo is responsible for women’s ready-to-wear.
Fulvia Visconti Ferragamo directs the creation of the men’s ties, scarves, beachwear and general accessories.
Ferruccio Ferragamo is Chief Executive Officer.
Leonardo Ferragamo is responsible for the European and the Far East markets and is President of Ferragamo Japan.
Massimo Ferragamo is President of Moda Imports (Ferragamo Company in North America).