I recently learned a really random fact, which I happen to think is incredibly cool. This summer marks the 90th anniversary of the return of Salvatore Ferragamo to Italy after his 13-year stint as “shoemaker to the stars” in Hollywood.
Upon learning this, I promptly did my research on Ferragamo’s life, and discovered that he was making major waves in fashion here in the US in the 1920s, long before he truly cemented his name brand back in Florence. Think about the 1920s for a moment— very high glam. It makes perfect sense that he was involved. I imagine him taking the ‘20s-style Mary Jane pump and adding his own flair. Upon reviewing photos of the new exhibit at the Ferragamo museum in Florence, I see that this is exactly what he was doing.
Yes, of course Florence has a Ferragamo museum. Why would it not? And this summer, the museum launched a new exhibit entitled “1927 – The Return to Italy. Ferragamo and the 20th Century Visual Culture.” It features many of Ferragamo’s creations from the era and other works of art that pay tribute to the aesthetic of the 20s. The interior of the building has been transformed to resemble the hold of a ship— specifically the Roma, which was the ship that moved travelers between the States and Italy at the time, including Ferragamo himself.
When he made the journey, Ferragamo was only 29 years old but had already made quite a splash stateside. After starting as a cobbler, advancing to a small-shop shoemaker and then quickly becoming the most coveted shoe designer of the Hollywood elite, he enrolled in anatomy classes at USC to learn how to design his popular shoes to be more comfortable. Apparently, he did not agree that beauty is pain. I myself own a pair of his boots circa 2012 and still wear them frequently as the years go by. They are the most comfortable and timeless shoes I own and were completely worth the splurge.
Once settled in vibrant 1920s Florence, Ferragamo set up shop and soon began fashioning shoes for the most powerful women of the time, including Eva Peron and Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps his most famous creation was the “The Rainbow,” which he designed for Judy Garland in 1938. This unique shoe is credited as being the first instance of the platform in modern Western culture. One look at the very 70s-style design, and you can see that Ferragamo was way ahead of his time.
Ferragamo only lived to see the year 1960 (age 62), but he left behind an international fashion house and a wife and six children to run it. To this day, the company is family-owned. A few years ago they also launched the Ferragamo Foundation in Florence to benefit budding fashion designers.
I hope to return to Florence before the 1927 exhibit ends, so I can immerse myself in the sights and feelings of a moment in time when old Hollywood met high Italian fashion. However, for my journey I think maybe I’ll skip the Roma and fly.