December 20, 2014

Museo Salvatore Ferragamo – Janina Nectara @ Observator Special

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

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.

It takes you back in time, in 1928, at the founding of the House, and it 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.

The designers in the fashion industry are often not just ambassadors of beauty and creativity, but also genuine inventors. It’s also the case of Salvatore Ferragamo, the most prolific creator of shoes. The Italian maestro isn’t just the author of the world’s most beautiful shoes that were all the rage among Hollywood’s stars. He was also the first designer to custom-make footwear for people with foot and leg disabilities. His inventions were then taken as model for producers all around the world, and the Ferragamo Museum in Florence now showcases a life fully dedicated to innovation and taste.


The palace today hosting the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum has a special history. It was built by Pope Boniface VIII’s banker. And between 1860 and 1870 held the meetings of Florence’s local assembly, back when the city was the capital of Italy. A few hundreds of years later, in 1938, Salvatore Ferragamo buys the palace, where he puts the headquarter of his company as well his workshops.

The designer’s story is, yet, just as spectacular as that of the brand’s residence.


Janina Nectara: Salvatore Ferragamo came from a very large family, of 14 children. And just through his being one of so many children, Ferragamo had the ambition of working from a very young age. At just 11 years old, he was apprentice in a leather goods shop and 13 already had his own atelier. Three years later, at 16, Salvatore Ferragamo leaves for America, following his brothers.


With iron will, Ferragamo challenges his predicaments. He studies anatomy, chemical engineering and mathematics and, then, uses this knowledge for designing previously unthought-of shoes patterns, then patented as extremely valuable inventions.


JN: Salvatore Ferragamo manages to overcome all possible problems stemming from the incorrect distribution of the body’s weight on the foot, introducing inside the shoe a metallic arch. An invention to become licensed then replicated around the world.


The techniques developed by the Italian designer remain, to this day, even if slightly improved, used by the great majority of shoes manufacturers.


JN: Among the shoes designs that made history are the lightweight, cork-soled shoes or the models made out of out of the box materials like cellophane or transparent paper (also used for chocolate wrapping), materials that Ferragamo used mostly during the Second World War, a time well-known for its acute shortage of supplies.


Today, the Ferragamo Museum hosts countless outstanding casts created by the famous designer. From the moulds of the biggest Hollywood stars, such as Angelina Jolie, all the way to previously unthought-of shapes of shoes: the wedge, the shell-shaped sole, the sock-shoe, the one with an interior that is curved and padded for foot arch support.


JN: After his death, the family took the name Ferragamo one step further, by transforming it into a world class fashion brand. Yet Salvatore Ferragamo dies seeing his life-long dream come true. That of being the creator of the world’s most beautiful shoes. I say this because Salvatore Ferragamo has always been recognised as having great technical abilities, while his greatest desire was for his designs to be appreciated rather for their aesthetic qualities.


The beauty of the shoes made by Salvatore Ferragamo turned him into the favourite of Hollywood divas and the most awarded shoes designer in history.


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