Sen­sa­tional Sal­va­tore

Dis­cover Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo’s most de­sir­able shoes, style and scents

Glamour (South Africa) - - Contents -

at the age of nine, a boy from the small Ital­ian vil­lage of Bonito, worked se­cretly through the night, mak­ing shoes for his sis­ters’ com­mu­nion; his par­ents were too poor to buy any.

One of a fam­ily of 14 chil­dren, he longed to be a shoe­maker, a ca­reer con­sid­ered to be the lowli­est in the com­mu­nity. But by 15, he was run­ning his own busi­ness and em­ploy­ing six adults as his as­sis­tants.

This was the boy who be­came the man sought out by the Hol­ly­wood stars and roy­alty of the 1920s: Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo.

The list of Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo clients reads like a round-up of Os­car win­ners, screen lu­mi­nar­ies and po­lit­i­cal pow­er­houses: Mar­lene Di­et­rich, Greta Garbo, Au­drey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, Eva Perón, Judy Gar­land, Joan Craw­ford and more. All cov­eted Sal­va­tore de­signs for the many ways in which they dif­fered from the rest – he was cre­ative and artis­tic, yes, but more im­por­tantly, he truly cared about feet.

Sal­va­tore was still a teen when he left Italy to join some of his brothers in the US. Al­ready an ex­pe­ri­enced shoe­maker, he worked at a shoe fac­tory to learn more about the trade. The big­gest les­son he took from the ex­pe­ri­ence: a to­tal re­sis­tance to ma­chine-made shoes. This credo, which he held for decades, was based on his be­lief that fac­tory-pro­duced shoes ru­ined feet – as proven by the women who con­sulted him.

When it came to clients, Sal­va­tore took as many mea­sure­ments as he could. He also stud­ied anatomy: how did feet move and carry weight, how did the body bal­ance on those feet, and what role did shoes play in heal­ing or harm­ing? Then there were ques­tions of height and pro­por­tion, in­clud­ing the be­lief that the more pe­tite the wearer, the shorter the heel should be.

Sal­va­tore was in­tel­li­gent, driven and clear about his path, and he wanted his shoes to be sold around the world. But there were so many ob­sta­cles.

The first? His own fam­ily. When he was a child, his par­ents had been em­bar­rassed about his call­ing. Then, when he moved to the US, his brothers couldn’t un­der­stand his de­sire to ex­pand their al­ready suc­cess­ful shoe re­pair busi­ness. Their dis­cour­age­ment led to a part­ing of ways, leav­ing Sal­va­tore on his own, try­ing to fol­low his dream.

The next ob­sta­cle? His aver­sion to ma­chines, a re­sis­tance so strong that he even­tu­ally aban­doned any at­tempt

at work­ing with fac­to­ries in the US and de­cided to re­turn home to hire Ital­ians ca­pa­ble of hand­mak­ing his de­signs. To his sur­prise, how­ever, even Ital­ian crafts­men were un­able to com­pre­hend his aims. Never one to give up, he sim­ply moved to Florence, and set the skills he needed to work­ers there. (This even­tu­ally led to the es­tab­lish­ment of a train­ing academy, which pro­vided a con­stant stream of tal­ented peo­ple.)

World War II changed ev­ery­thing. Sud­denly un­able to ex­port to the UK, US and the rest of Europe, Sal­va­tore de­clared bank­ruptcy. Raw ma­te­ri­als were dif­fi­cult to find, too, mean­ing new ways to craft shoes were needed. As with all ob­sta­cles, Sal­va­tore had a choice: be stopped or be driven. Typ­i­cally, he treated the chal­lenge as in­cen­tive to ex­per­i­ment, toy­ing with fish skin, fish­ing gut, feathers and cork. The re­sults in­cluded the world’s first wedge and plat­form heels. Women ev­ery­where were thrilled.

Sal­va­tore re­alised his shoes would al­ways be ex­clu­sive, only avail­able to those who could af­ford hand­made. Be­fore his death in 1960, he fi­nally ac­knowl­edged that it was time to come to terms with mass pro­duc­tion while main­tain­ing qual­ity. His so­lu­tion was to have some parts made by ma­chine and oth­ers by hand.

Today, the Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo brand in­cludes lux­ury leather, clothes and, of course, shoes. Fer­rag­amo is still worn by Hol­ly­wood’s finest, and there are 685 stores around the world.

And that poor Ital­ian boy? Every step he took to­wards his dream of car­ing and cre­at­ing for feet came true.

Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo with his shoe pro­to­types.

e o r n o M n ly ri a M

from left to right Ready-to-wear de­signs and hand­bags on Karolína Kurková, Olivia Palermo and Olivia Culpo.

"he worked at a shoe fac­tory to learn more about the trade. The big­gest les­son he took from the ex­pe­ri­ence: a to­tal re­sis­tance to ma­chine-made shoes."

Sophia Loren and Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo.

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