Remembering the Shoemaker of Dreams
Even before Hollywood films produced sound, Salvatore Ferragamo soled the shoes of the silver-screen’s most sultry starlets: Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich and Ingrid Bergman. And while Ferragamo became famous as the pioneer of modern shoe design, the artisan could write as eloquently as he could sketch.
“There is no limit to beauty, no saturation point in design, no end to the materials a shoemaker may use to decorate his creations so that every woman may be shod like a princess and a princess may be shod like a fairy queen. There is no limit to the materials I have used in these 50 years of shoemaking. I have used diamonds and pearls, real and imitation; gold and silver dust; fine leathers from Germany, Britain, America, and wherever else they may be found. I have used satins and silks, lace and needlework, glass and glass mirrors, feathers. I have used fish, felt, and transparent paper, snail shells and raffia, synthetic silk woven instead of raffia, raw silk, seaweeds and wool.
“I love feet. They talk to me. As I take them in my hands I feel their strengths, their weakness, their vitality or their failings. A good foot, its muscles firm, its arch strong, is a delight to touch, a masterpiece of divine workmanship.” – Salvatore Ferragamo in his 1957 autobiography, “Shoemaker of Dreams.”
A Private Chat with Mrs. Wanda Ferragamo
Striving to keep Salvatore’s memory and legacy alive, his wife, Wanda Miletti Ferragamo, launched the Fondazione Ferragamo in Florence, Italy, in March. South Florida Opulence interviewed Mrs. Ferragamo about her husband’s legacy – to both the fashion world and to her family.
“It has been for me a privilege and a big discovery to learn from Salvatore, my husband, so much about the anatomy of the foot, the perfect fitting and shoe construction,” said Mrs. Ferragamo, who married Salvatore when she was 19 and he 42. “The first thing that Salvatore did was to study the anatomy of the foot. Thanks to his studies, he realized that the arch of the foot sustains the weight of our body and, therefore, needed major support.
“In fact, in every Ferragamo shoe, you can find a steel barrel (not visible) in the arch of the shoe. Salvatore was really dedicated to the perfect fit, giving balance to our body, and I am very proud to see that nobody after him has discovered anything as essential as he did,” said Mrs. Ferragamo.
She established the Ferragamo Foundation with the belief that young people are “the engine of any society,” the force that ensures continuity and the future. Her goal is “providing them with know-how, creativity, technology and, above all, the desire to move forward, to overcome all obstacles, values exemplified by my husband’s life and his life’s work.”
“When he was not at work, Salvatore spent a lot of time with me and our six children,” she said. “He loved the countryside. Salvatore’s hobby was agriculture. When he could, he loved to take us to our farm, which is only 20 minutes from Florence.”
It’s anyone’s guess just how many shoes Salvatore Ferragamo made over his lifetime. “As far as I am concerned, I have in my closet, for my personal use, about 100 pairs of shoes,” said Mrs. Ferragamo with a reflective smile. “Salvatore was a wonderful person. He treated me as a queen, and I was always grateful for this. I miss Salvatore every day terribly, but at the same time, I feel him near me throughout the lovely memories that we have had together.”