Ferragamo: form, function, and fashion

Beauty was not enough for Ferragamo; he strove for comfort and functionality in his designs. Australian fashionistas and business leaders share how the iconic shoemaker inspires them.

Unaware that his name would one day be synonymous with functional luxury in footwear, as a young boy, Salvatore Ferragamo learned the essential skills of the trade by apprenticing with a cobbler in Naples. At 9 years old, he surprised his cash-strapped family by secretly making his first pair of shoes overnight for his sister’s Holy Communion. Against his father’s wishes, Ferragamo was determined to pursue the trade and went on to make Italy synonymous with quality shoe production.

According to Rosie Traill, Founder & CEO of TraillBlazers Consulting, a dynamic businesswoman who is always on her feet but likes to look good, “Ferragamo understood that the 26 bones of the human foot needed to be accommodated. I love that he blended the science of anatomy and engineering with his craft, culminating in something incredibly special and supremely functional.”

He was a perfectionist, highly ambitious, and singularly driven by the quest for the perfect shoe. By 1915, the footwear industry in the US had already shifted to machine-assisted factory production. That same year, at the age of 16, Ferragamo left Italy to join his older siblings already in the US, with the hope of further developing his skills and establishing a luxury shoe brand. He was skeptical of modern manufacturing techniques and continued to handcraft his shoes with an eye to superior quality. The techniques he created have stood the test of time as the brand continues to be a sought-after luxury item around the world.

Rosie Traill, Founder and CEO of  TraillBlazers Consulting

Rachael Haack, creative director for high-end accounts in Australia, the Middle East and the UK, is a devotee of Ferragamo style and quality. She says:

They are beautifully crafted pieces that complement a broad range of looks and styles. The craftsmanship is also noteworthy, and a customer knows they are always buying a quality product.

Rachael, in particular, appreciates the hard work that went into the quality, simple elegance, and wearability of her favourite pair of Ferragamo boots:

I have a beautiful pair of black boots I bought ten years ago. The leather has worn so well, and I know these boots will work with a range of outfits.

Melbourne-based designer Anthony Montesano of Signor Mont Couture drives home this point:

Ferragamo was able to not only design beautiful shoes but to follow in the tradition of the rich history of all of Italy’s best-known artists. He studied the anatomy of the foot, so his style was an extension of his knowledge, and that is the mark of a master designer. Not only having an instinct for style but a deep knowledge and then channelling that into your style. Ferragamo was a genius who treated challenges and obstacles as opportunities to innovate, using cork and metal structures for heels. His philosophy and love of the craft will inspire many generations to come. I have been lucky enough to build a racewear look around one of his vintage iconic heels. He had the power to make shoes that were so important and beautiful that they led the entire direction of the outfit.

Melbourne-based designer Anthony Montesano considers Ferragamo an inspiration

Shoe designer Lana Volkov, a Melburnian now living in Italy, was about 7 years old when the iconic rainbow platform wedge first inspired her. She recalls:

He was a technical genius who developed the famous wedges and heels by hand using pioneering materials. His concepts were new and unconventional, gaining the attention of the fashion world. I was also drawn to the quirky elegance of his shoes. I was transfixed by his famous transparent sole and heel concept, which I saw in the Ferragamo Museum in Florence. It was spectacular! He purposely left one heel shorter in a pair of shoes he made for Marilyn Monroe to wear to allow her hips to move more sensually. When I’m building my collections or working for clients and their brands, I often go through my Ferragamo archives to look over his shoe masterpieces. What I love most is you can evidently sense his passion and devotion to his work and his creations.

In addition to her work as a CEO, Rosie Traill finds the time to be an executive mentor. She shares with her clients how intelligent choices about presenting ourselves in the working world can help us feel and appear more in control and up our game in the corporate sphere. On the topic of Ferragamo, Rosie is ebullient:

My first experience with Salvatore Ferragamo was playing dress-up in my very stylish mother’s closet when I was a child. My favourites were her shiny patent leather pumps with the gold bow adorning the Salvatore Ferragamo signature. I thought they were so beautiful and couldn’t wait for my feet to grow into them. As soon as I was earning enough money to support my love of fashion, I invested in a pair. They made me feel sophisticated, stylish, and opulent–like a movie star– and were the perfect foundation for any outfit. I also note that this style has stood the test of time, and today I can purchase a pair almost identical to my first Ferragamos! I have bought countless pairs of shoes throughout my life, and the ones that look amazing and are comfortable are always the ones I appreciate the most. Not compromising comfort 34 over style was Salvatore Ferragamo’s superpower.

Salvatore Ferragamo in early '900s, via Getty Images

Ferragamo’s influence is especially felt in Florence, where the brand headquarters has been based since 1927. Florence has paid tribute to one of the city’s greatest adopted sons in the form of the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, located in the medieval basement of Palazzo Spini Feroni. Sadly, in 1960, Ferragamo died at the relatively young age of 62, but his family has carried on his legacy of creativity and excellence. Italy’s reputation as the source of the world’s finest footwear is owed in great measure to Ferragamo.

Images provided by Anthony Montesano, Lucy Laurita, Rosie Traill