October 20, 2014

Mercedes-Benz Travel Season: Museo Salvatore Ferragamo

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When you drive (#DrivingAvecPassion) by the Arno in Florence, aiming straight for Palazzo Spini Feroni, Ferragamo’s headquarter and home of the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, you find it hard imagining the intriguing history of this House. Fashion House! In fact, that of the building as well!

The palazzo, built by the banker of Pope Boniface VIII in 1289, was bought by Salvatore Ferragamo in 1938, after the tremendous success met by his innovative platform shoes model – the lightweight cork wedges.

And the designer’s journey to reach thus far had been even more story-like. Eleventh of 14 children, he was born in a small village outside Naples, in 1898. At 11 he was a shoemaker’s apprentice, and at 13 opening his first shop, in his native village of Bonito. And success and glory were already impatient with revealing themselves. At 16 he was making his way to the United States, to join his siblings. From a shoe factory in Chicago, to studying anatomy, chemical engineering and mathematics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and then to the Hollywood Boot Shop, his own boutique to the stars in Santa Barbara, California were all natural steps for Ferragamo. So were those towards the clientele worthy of his shop’s name: Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Lauren Bacall…

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Truly, when you walk among the exhibits of the Museo, you find it difficult to believe the human and professional story behind the 18 karat golden sandal or the orthopaedic shaped shoes that Ferragamo designed so that to optimise weight distribution and the shape of the foot. Harder still, since there is so much fashion history being generated, practically, by one single person.

Yet Museo Salvatore Ferragamo manages to fully explain all of the stages in Ferragamo’s fantastic history. As well as in underlining and deepening its mystery.

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If that was a harp, it would have had the most fashionable sound in the world! janina nectara, salvatore ferragamo museum, fashion avec passion 24

It takes you back in time, in 1928, at the founding of the House, and takes you visiting the landmark events that Ferragamo generated. It’s fascinating to learn about the shapes before him never considered as fit for shoes, and that its founder innovatively adapted for orthopaedic-medical use: the wedge heel, the shell-shapes sole, the sock-shoe, the one with a curved and padded inside for foot arch support.

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But Ferragamo was also a real forefather of the (celebrity) made to measure trend! As also full of charm are the stories of the models he custom-designed for the Maharani of Cooch Behar during the British Raj, of the stiletto shoes for Marilyn Monroe or the personalised bags ordered by Margaret Thatcher and the king of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck!

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Just as the technological and business element incorporated by Salvatore Ferragamo into his activity are quite simply revolutionary. Returned to Florence after the US experience, he adapted the assembly line model recently developed by Henry Ford to the specificities and qualities of the Italian artisans, so that the joining of the two would have him reach a constant flux of overseas exports. All a matter of flexibility. In 1929, when the Great Crisis was impacting the Unites States, Ferragamo was focusing on the Italian market. After the Second World War, his company, remarkably resilient, was one of the leaders and symbols of the Italian revival. In 1947, just two years later, he was the first shoes designer to ever receive the prestigious Neiman Marcus Award.

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Fun exhibition regarding the evolution of biped walk, the starting point when all the weight of our body had to be supported by legs. Thus, the world required for Ferragamo! Ferragamo had to be invented, so that he can invent comfortable (& stylish) shoes for ladies like us : )janina nectara, salvatore ferragamo museum, fashion avec passion 33

While Hollywood’s love story with Ferragamo is far of (ever) ending: from the Golden Age and Joan Crawford, to Evita (1996) and Rush (2013), it’s just a ’’never ending story’’!

But Ferragamo’s glory isn’t all about the past. The present also brings new headings to be included in the House’s timeline: the iconic Vara ballerina shoe is joined by future pieces of historic relevance. The Ferragamo watches line, jewellery made in collaboration with Gianni Bulgari, the younger audience My Ferragamo label… As well as hundreds of Ferragamo boutiques reaching far beyond the US and Europe, to today’s star-markets – Latin America and, most of all, Asia.

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All of this, plus models for the famous feet he’s shoed and approximately 10 000 shoes is what one finds at the Museo! As it wasn’t just Salvatore Ferragamo to be honoured with a fashion Oscar. Museo Salvatore Ferragamo has also received a prestigious cultural award – The Guggenheim First Prize for Industry and Culture!

Additionally, it also gives us the opportunity of becoming little patrons of the arts: the funds coming from the sale of tickets are fully used for funding scholarships for young people. Enough reason to get in the  car, my fashion companion Mercedes-Benz GLA from Ţiriac Auto, give the city a full tour before heading back and revisiting, at least once more, the (so) inspirational Museo Salvatore Ferragamo!

janina nectara, salvatore ferragamo museum, fashion avec passion 8PS: Since driving is not allowed in the old city center of Florence, due to the protective law (the architectural Renaissance capo d’operas must be preserved in the best conditions), I found an alternative way  of visiting the city. Of course not as comfy as my BFF and fashion travel partner, Mercedes- Benz GLA, but excellent to access the hidden corners of Florence’s art.

janina nectara, salvatore ferragamo museum, fashion avec passionAfter a full, inspiring day of fashion and art, it’s time to get back to the car and #DriveAvecPassion on the Gold Road of my Fashion Map. Final hair retouch and ready to go to the next fashion destination! Stay tuned!

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Museo Salvatore Ferragamo

Museo Salvatore Ferragamo

 

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Photos: Museo Salvatore Ferragamo