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Ferragamo, inventor of the wedge, is the model worn by girls from Marilyn Monroe to Margaret Thatcher, and the only label ever to carry a fashion present within the Louvre. It may not be as notorious as different Italian surnames in trend but anticipate to hear extra of it this week. The model - which has had a retailer in London since 1938 - will relaunch its expanded Old Bond Street space with a splashy party for 200 guests. The occasion, hosted by Ferruccio Ferragamo, founder Salvatore's eldest son and chairman of the corporate, will see a 61m-lengthy desk erected in the Burlington Arcade, adorned with 10,000 roses and 500 candles, where visitors can be treated to a feast. Thus far, so Italian.

Household isn't far away in Italian fashion. Whereas the Gucci cleaning soap opera, complete with family murders, has given way to a slicker operation below the stewardship of fash-glomerate PPR, actual-life Missonis, Armanis, Versaces and Fendis are still present within the manufacturers that bear their names. The same is true at Ferragamo - probably solely rivalled by the Missoni sprawling dynasty, there are six members of the household working for the model, throughout three generations. The distinction? While the Missonis have made their good cross-generational lives into adverts shot by Juergen Teller and featuring pasta made by Nonna, we know nearly nothing about the Ferragamos.

Here's the crib sheet: Salvatore Ferragamo founded his shoe firm in 1927. When he died in 1960, his widow Wanda (who still comes into the workplace every day on the age of 91) went from mother to businesswoman. She was joined by her six children, with the eldest, 17-12 months-outdated daughter Fiamma, concerned from the start. Fiamma, the only little one to have labored by her father's side, invented the Varina - the signature ballet flat with grosgrain ribbon bow, based on her father's Vara pump - in 1978, but died 20 years later. Now, Wanda is honorary chairwoman and she is flanked by four youngsters and two grandchildren - James, the new York University-educated, dashing 40 year old who oversees girls's leather-based merchandise, and Angelica, the extra understated cousin who once worked for Buitoni pasta and is now Ferragamo's retail director for Italy.

So what are the Ferragamos like? If the Missonis are boho hippy jetset, the Armanis are all enterprise and the Versaces characterize drama, think of the Ferragamos because the Medicis of fashion. Their shtick is culture. While the Medicis were patrons to Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Donatello, the Ferragamos have helped to restore monuments in Florence and sponsored the exhibit of Da Vinci's 1501 painting of Saint Anne at the Louvre this yr, therefore that trend present. "We contribute in any manner we can to keep up what we have now right here," says Ferruccio. "It is an honour to help the monuments, the paintings, the treasures."

"Here" is Florence - a city as fundamental to the ferragamo shoes for men ( story as it was to the Medicis. The household has been primarily based in the town since the start. Salvatore, who made his title in early Hollywood - Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish and Gloria Swanson have been shoppers - returned to Italy, however not to his native South. Instead, as he wrote in his 1957 autobiography, Shoemaker of Dreams, "this lovely metropolis, with its centuries of wealth in art and its lengthy traditions of noble leatherwork," would be his house. He promptly arrange his enterprise in a palazzo built in 1289 and his company's HQ has remained there ever since.

Salvatore, who's something of a renaissance man - he also studied human anatomy and patented a design for a leg splint - cherished footwear to suit (his autobiography has pages devoted to toes) however his footwear designs had been also radical. In addition to inventing the wedge, he used Cellophane, bark and cork in his generally fantastical designs. "He had interesting supplies and changed heel shapes," says Rebecca Shawcross, curator of the Northampton Shoe Museum. "Footwear like this are in every single place now, however girls then would have looked at them and gone, 'Wow.'" The most well-known of these is probably the Rainbow - a bulbous, multicoloured platform sandal originally created for Judy Garland in 1938, and in a position to compete with the Alexander McQueen armadillo heel within the excessive shoe pattern at present.

By distinction, fake ferragamo belts now concentrate on classics. Wanda added equipment and prepared-to-put on, all with a really Florentine appreciation of classical beauty. It's chic and, Thatcher dalliance apart, conservative with a small c. "It has a timeless ingredient to it," says James, of the family aesthetic, "one thing you cherish beyond one season - but also feels relevant." Penny Martin, editor-in-chief of The Gentlewoman, is among the many style insiders who respect that relevance, particularly within the Vara 1 - a pump with just a little block heel. The sneakers "really feel authentic and uncompromised in their design, like something from another time that still speaks so clearly," she says. "There's one thing fairly young-Princess Margaret about them," provides Emma Elwick-Bates, market editor at Vogue. "I personally wear the Varina pump, an ideal preppy classic to gown up ripped jeans."

"Whatever circle you're in, if you happen to look down and see a pair of Ferragamos they know a bit about you," says Shawcross. Wearing a pair of Ferragamos says you are a part of a cultural elite that appreciates slowly evolving design over the fickle nature of vogue - a really Florentine principle, in truth.

"It has an capability to renew itself, keep itself alive," says James, of his house town. The identical may very well be mentioned of the Medics or, in fact, the Ferragamos.

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