Salvatore Ferragamo was born in 1898 in Bonito, near Avellino (the eleventh of fourteen children). He was an Italian shoe designer and after working with many famous Hollywood stars in the 1920s, he founded the company Ferragamo which became famous for its unique hand-made footwear and invented the wedge heel and cage heel.
Ferragamo started out young and he made his first pair of shoes at the age of 9 after borrowing some materials from a nearby cobbler, for his sisters to wear on their communion. His passion for shoes led him to study shoemaking in Naples for a year, after which, he opened a small store based in his parent’s home. In 1914, he emigrated to the USA, Boston, where one of his brothers worked in a cowboy boot factory.
After a short period of working in the cowboy boot factory, he convinced his brother to move to California, eventually ending up in Hollywood. Ferragamo opened a shop for repair and made-to-measure shoes, which quickly became popular among celebrities of the day. This led to him designing shoes for stars such as;Bette Davis, Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn and Sofia Loren and further led to his success. Even with all this success. Ferragamo was still not content, as he was concerned as to why his shoes hurt the foot even though they were very pleasing to the eye. This gave him the incentive to go to the University of Southern California to study anatomy.
Ferragamo returned to Italy in 1927 and settled in Florence after spending a number of years in America. He began to fashion shoes for the wealthiest and most powerful women of the century such as; Eva Peron, Marilyn Monroe and the Maharani of Coock Behar. In 1929, he opened a workshop in Via Mannelli and experimented with design, applying for patents for ornamental and utility models and some related inventions. He had to file for banktruptcy in 1933 due to bad management and economic pressures, but nonetheless, expanded his operation during the 1950s to a workforce of around 700 expert artisans that produced approximately 350 pairs of hand-made shoes a day.
His designs ranged from the strikingly bizarre to the traditionally elegant, often serving as the main inspiration to other footwear designers of his time and beyond. Salvatore Ferragamo died in 1960 at the age of 62, but his name lives on as an international company, which has expanded its operations to include luxury shoes, bags, eyewear, silk accessories, watches, perfumes and a ready-to-wear clothing line. At his death his wife Wanda and later their six children (Fiamma, Giovanna, Fulvia, Ferruccio, Massimo and Leonardo) ran the Ferragamo company.
His eldest daughter Fiamma (who died in 1998) inherited her father’s talent and invented the “Vara pumps” in 1978.