Salvatore Ferragamo was born in Bonito,Italy, in 1898, the eleventh of fourteen children. At age nine he made his first pair of shoes for his sisters to wear at their confirmation, upon doing so Salvatore discovered his calling, and developed his passion for shoes. After a year of studying shoemaking in Naples, Ferragamo opened a small store out of his parent’s home. In 1914, he immigrated to Boston, where one of his brothers worked in a cowboy boot factory.
Following a brief period at the factory, Ferragamo persuaded his brothers to move to California, first Santa Barbara then Hollywood. That was where Ferragamo found much success, initially opening a shop for repair and made-to-measure shoes, which soon became prized items among celebrities of the time, which then lead to a career of designing footwear for the films. Nevertheless, his thriving reputation as ‘Shoemaker to the Stars’ only partially satisfied him, which lead his to study anatomy at the University of Southern California, to develop his shoes beyond style, but to comfort.
After thirteen years in the United States, Ferragamo went back to Italy in 1927, and settled in Florence. In that same year he began to fashion shoes for the most affluent and prominent women of the century, from the Maharani of Cooch Behar to Eva Peron to Marilyn Monroe. In 1929, he launched a workshop in the Via Mannelli, concentrating his efforts in experimenting with design, applying for patents for ornamental and utility models and some related inventions. Although having to file for bankruptcy in 1933, due to bad management and economic pressures, Ferragamo however expanded his business during the 1950 to a workforce of around 700 expert artisans that produced 350 pairs of hand-made shoes a day.
Ferragamo serves as an inspiration to other footwear designers of his time and beyond, he was a visionary, with designs ranging from the strikingly bizarre objet d’art to the traditionally elegant. In 1960 Salvatore Ferragamo died at the age of 62, but his name lives on through his international company, which has expanded its operations to include luxury shoes, bags, eyewear, silk accessories, watches, perfumes and a ready-to-wear clothing line. Today his wife, Wanda and later their six children, Fiamma, Giovanna, Fulvia, Ferruccio, Massimo and Leonardo, run the Ferragamo company.