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2023.11.22

A Look Inside 'FERRAGAMO', Where the Finest Shoemakers Gather: Breathing the Founder’s DNA who Devoted his Life to Shoemaking

'FERRAGAMO', one of Italy's renowned luxury brands, is one of the few big houses that is still run by the original founding family.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the FERRAGAMO workshop on the outskirts of Florence, Italy. Here, I will take you through the inside story of the workshop and the history of FERRAGAMO.

The Founding of Salvatore Ferragamo

Salvatore Ferragamo, the founder, was born in 1898 in the rural town of Bonito in southern Italy. It all began when, at the age of six, he made a pair of shoes for his sister's baptism.
Coming from a not so wealthy family, he dropped out of school at 9 years old (third grade of elementary school), trained under a shoemaker in Naples against his parents' wishes, and by 11 years old he had opened a shoemaking shop in his hometown of Bonito. Dreaming bigger, he immigrated to California, where his brothers and cousins lived, and opened a shoe repair and custom-made shop.
He became known as the 'shoemaker of the stars' as he proved to be a big success, making shoes for film costumes and having Hollywood's famous actors as clients.
However, questioning the mass-produced shoes sold in America at the time, he moved back to Italy, driven by a new passion to 'deliver artisan-made shoes to the world', and established a shoe workshop 'Salvatore Ferragamo' in Florence, a city of craftsmen, in 1927.
Despite the turbulent times of the Great Depression and war, he continued to make shoes until his death in 1960 with his sense of design, original ideas, and exceptional craftsmanship.
After his death, his business was taken over by his wife, Wanda, who was a full-time housewife. While raising six children, she placed importance on both work and family life, a very progressive presence in 1960s Italy.
Always elegantly dressed and still working even in her 90s, she attended fashion shows in Milan and received many prestigious awards both in Italy and abroad. To realize the founder's dream of not only shoes but also transforming into an integrated fashion brand, a handbag line was launched in 1965 by the eldest daughter, Fiamma, and a ready-to-wear collection was introduced by the second daughter, Giovanna.
In 1970, a men's line was introduced and expanded by the second son, Leonardo, who demonstrated his business skills, and he currently serves as the chairman of 'FERRAGAMO'.

A Historic Building Used as a City Hall

The place where the founder first established his shoe workshop in Florence is in a room of the historic Palazzo Spini Feroni. This building, even older than Florence's landmark, the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, has an esteemed history as it was once used as the city hall.
Almost 60 skilled shoemakers from the Tuscany region were gathered here to manufacture shoes by hand. Since 1938, the entire building has been owned by the maison and now houses the headquarters office, the Florence flagship store, and the Ferragamo Museum.
Currently, 'Ferragamo' operates 389 directly managed stores worldwide and the atelier we visited located in the suburbs of Florence serves as the core of several scattered throughout the Tuscany region.
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