Salvatore Ferragamo was born in 1898 to a large Italian family that lived in Bonito, Italy, a town near Naples. When he was just 9 years old, Ferragamo made his first pair of shoes.
Designing and making shoes fascinated young Ferragamo and he quickly picked up the trade. After studying the art of shoemaking in Naples for a year, he was an apprentice shoemaker in Bonito.
Some of Ferragamo's brothers had traveled to the U. S. and one of them lived in Boston, Massachusetts. When Salvatore was 14 years old, he emigrated to the United States. In 1914, he settled in Boston with one of his brother who worked for a company that manufactured cowboy boots. Soon, Ferragamo went to work for the company, too.
Ferragamo lived and worked in the Boston area for almost ten years, but one day, decided to move to Santa Barbara, California to live with another one of his brothers.
While in California, Ferragamo decided to open his own shoe repair shop and started making shoes. His business soon caught the eye of some of Hollywood's elite and it wasn't long before he was in demand for his work.
Ferragamo went to work in the film industry as a shoe and boot maker. His costume shoes were so elegant that certain actors and actresses started asking him to make shoes for them for off screen use.
In 1923, Ferragamo opened a shop in Hollywood called the Hollywood Boot Shop and quickly became known as the "shoemaker of the Stars." His costumers were Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Gloria Swanson.
Ferragamo enrolled at the University of Southern California to studied human anatomy, mathematics, and chemical engineering. He applied what he learned to the creation of his shoe designs and other fashion styles.
The fame of Ferragamo's shoes spread rapidly and soon they were wanted by people outside the film industry. In 1927, Ferragamo decided to relocate his company to Italy where he knew people who could handcraft his popular shoes.
Ferragamo went bankrupt following the crash of Wall Street in 1929. In 1936, he opened a shop in Florence called "Pallazo Spini Feroni." His success allowed Ferragamo to buy the Pallazo Spini Feroni building, which became the company's headquarters in 1938.
During World War II, the supply of material was short leading Ferragamo to develop shoes that were based on the materials that were available, such as, felt, metallic threads, and raffia. The materials he used inspired Ferragamo to create new designs and he became more popular than ever.
As a shoe maker, Ferragamo gained notoriety around the world and in 1947, he launched his "invisible" sandal that earned him the Neiman Marcus Award.
Ferragamo had a wide and varied clientele during the the 1950's that included stars like Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and Greta Garbo. He introduced his steel reinforced stiletto that was famously worn by actress Marilyn Monroe.
When Ferragamo died in 1960, his wife Wanda took over the business. Their daughter Fiamma took over the creative side of the business, while their oldest son, Ferruccio became the company's CEO.
In 1961, the year after Ferragamo's death, Fiamma designed her own collection, and in 1967, she won the Neiman Marcus Award.
During the 1980s, Ferragamo introduced it's first ready-to-wear clothing collection and began opening it's own stores. During the 1990s, Ferragamo had flagship stores in Italy, Zurich, and London and the company also opened stores in New York and Palm Beach.
In 1998, Ferragamo signed a deal with Italian eyeglass manufacturer Luxottica and released a sunglass line. Fiamma, Salvatore's daughter, designer of the "Vara" pumps died in 1998.
The next year, 1999, the company signed with Bulgari to release a fragrance for women, but soon afterwards, separated from Bulgari and began a line of fragrances licensed under it's own name called Incanta.
In 2003, Ferragamo opened more flagships in New York and Tokyo. In 2006, Ferragamo's family accepted the honor of having his name on the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style, given to legends in the fashion industry.
Much of modern footwear, and especially women's footwear, was to stem from Ferragamo's innovations. These included the open shoe and sandals for women. Over time, Ferragamo amassed a collection of some 300 patents.
Today, the Ferragamo company has expanded its operations to include luxury shoes, suede and leather handbags, eyewear, silk accessories, watches, perfumes and a ready-to-wear clothing line.
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