CLOSE TO HEART
Ferruccio Ferragamo recounts his love of Florence, as his family restores the city’s historic heritage and unveils an exhibition exploring the overlap of art and fashion.
The eldest son of Salvatore Ferragamo recounts his love of Florence, as his family restores the city’s historic heritage.
“WE HAVE ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT IT WAS OUR DUTY TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK”
Ferrucio Ferragamo is recalling his father’s love for Florence. “My father Salvatore was born in Bonito, a small village a half-hour away from Naples. He emigrated to the United States when he was 17 years old. Upon his return to Italy 14 years later, he chose to settle in Florence, “the birthplace of beauty”, because of its rich artistic history that inspired his creations and respect for the craft, which he defended unfalteringly,” he says.
The eldest son of Salvatore Ferragamo is sitting in one of the 13th-century lounges of the Palazzo Spini Feroni. He has taken the mantle of the company’s president since succeeding his 94-yearold mother, Wanda Ferragamo Miletti, who is now honorary president. “My father, a dreamer, bought it little by little,” he says of the company’s current headquarters and the store in Florence. “Tuscany has always contributed to Ferragamo. The company was founded and created here, and it gained international recognition and momentum with the local culture. We have always thought that it was our duty to give something back to the city that we love so much,” remarks Ferruccio, explaining the reasons behind his work as patron of the arts, starting in 1996 with the restoration of the Ponte Santa Trinita. His last two contributions were the renovation of eight rooms in the Uffizi Gallery with a 600,000euro donation, and the ongoing restoration of the Neptuno fountain in the Piazza della Signoria, a white marble masterpiece by Bartolomeo Ammannati, the first public fountain donated by Francesco I de’ Medici in 1565.
“These gestures come from the heart and are deep-rooted in Ferragamo even more than the city’s history,” adds Ferruccio. The Ferragamos, six siblings, all Florentine, are considered by many as the contemporary Medici. “It isn’t comparable, but they were a historical example to follow, and an example of how culture exalts our lives.”
The idea of collaboration between art and fashion, closely akin to the concept of the Renaissance, when art and craft were one, is completely in tune with Salvatore Ferragamo himself, a creative genius fascinated by the artistic avant-gardes of the 20s and who was consistently inspired by and worked in collaboration with artists. It spurred the subject of the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum’s exhibition, Across Art and Fashion, which takes a look at this relationship since the Renaissance, passing through the 19th century, when haute couture was born, and up to the present. The exhibition (on until April), which for the first time is being extended to five more museums throughout the city, including the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, the Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti and the Marino Marini Museum, raises a key question: is fashion art? Stefania Ricci, director of the centre
and of the team of curators who organised the exhibition, responds: “It’s a question with quite blurry lines, due to which we can’t give a clear response. I would like visitors to leave the exhibition thinking that fashion can be a new way to see the world. Fashion isn’t a limited universe on what clothes to wear, but rather there is so much culture, so much research behind it.”
The idea for the exhibition came to Ricci from a particular shoe – one of the 30,000 held in the museum’s archives – that Salvatore Ferragamo made for Marilyn Monroe. The adornment of concentric circles on the heels and sides mimicked the abstract circular paintings of Kenneth Noland from the same period. The exhibition also explores collaborations between artists and designers, like Elsa Schiaparelli with Dalì, Cocteau and in particular Alberto Giacometti, who made Schiaparelli buttons. Also featured is Sonia Delaunay, the painter who designed fashion and textiles. Special attention is given to fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, who looked to Mondrian and Picasso; Yohji Yamamoto, who designed dresses inspired by Joan Miró; and Warhol’s work as an illustrator for fashion magazines. A selection of recent projects, such as garments by Viktor & Rolf, Capucci, Azzedine Alaïa and Hussein Chalayan, closes the exhibition. In the form of architectural shapes, they exemplify how inspirations, from nature to the art of the past, can come together in fashion. “Fashion looks to art to grow its own prestige,” explains Ricci. “And art is curious about the world of fashion, the freedom of representation and its contemporaneity.”
Left: Ferruccio Ferragamo, president of Salvatore Ferragamo. Above: shoe moulds for actresses such as Rita Hayworth, Angelina Jolie and Bette Davis.
Clockwise from above: A Neon Calligraphy Series (2004) by Gu Wenda, next to Salvatore Ferragamo scarf designs by Korean artist Sea Hyun Lee (2015); Untitled (2013), painted bronze by Mimmo Paladino; Portrait (La Source 1,2,3) (1986-90) by Yasumasa...