I was 16 and sitting in humanities class at my Catholic school when I saw one of the girls walked in with the highest platforms. I was totally fascinated by the possibilities of what shoes could be. I immediately starting reading anything I could get my hands on about shoes. The name that came up over and over again was Salvatore Ferragamo. Ferragamo was born in 1898 in Bonito Italy. A small village with still only about 2500 residents. He was number 11 of 14 children. At a very young age he knew he wanted to make shoes. The profession was frowned upon as being lowly but Ferragamo followed his dream. He immigrated to the United States in 1914 at the age of 16 to Boston. He ended up moving to L.A. and making shoes for the movies. Celebrities started wearing his original designs and he was known as "Shoemaker to the Stars". Ferragamo was not satisfied with the notoriety. He wanted his shoes to be comfortable as well as beautiful. This leads Ferragamo to inventing and patenting 350 ideas many of which we still use today.
Ferragamo took anatomy classes and discovered that the weight of the body falls onto the arch of the foot. He developed the idea of a shank. A metal bar that ran under the arch. It supported the weight of the body and in the case of high heel sandals kept the foot from sliding down off the heel. Virtually all shoes today have a shank. As you can see in the last picture, he designed for some of the most famous and powerful women of his time.
Ferragamo moved back to Italy in 1927 to make his shoes there.During World War II shortages in materials were common. He used this to create some amazing designs. Metal was in short supply so instead of shanks he created the wedge heel for support. I always thought wedges were always around but the very 1st wedge was designed by him in 1936! This pair below not only has the wedge but also invisible fishing line for the vamp. Leather was also in short supply and one day as Ferragamo was watching men fish in the Arno river that runs through Florence he got the idea to use the fishing line for his shoes.
Ferragamo was the father of the modern platform. Platforms had not been seen since chopines during the 1500's thru 1700's. Chopines are another whole blog post. Ferragamo brought back high shoes by utilizing cork which was easily accessible even during the war. Below are pics of a pair of chopines. Yes...someone actually wore these and needed two servants to steady themselves when they left the house. And you complain about high heels. The next three are creations of Ferragamo.
These next shoes are an iconic pump he made for Marylin Monroe and lasts that he custom made for the perfect fit for her. The next are a pair of solid gold shoes made with gold chains. The last are a pair with a prominent toe possibly inspired by a Turkish toe or Poulaine toe.
I was very lucky to attend the Polimoda Fashion Institute in Florence Italy. The president of the school is the oldest son of Salvatore Ferragamo, Ferruccio Ferragamo. I was in the city that Ferragamo created some of his most amazing designs. His flagship store is in the Medieval palace Palazzo Spini Feroni that he used as his factory. There is a museum there which is a must see if your in Florence and a shoe lover.
Ferragamo's flagship store and museum and Mr.Ferragamo himself with a glass soled shoe.