NEW YORK — After a 10-year love affair with Prada — and 48 years in the footwear industry — Franco Fieramosca retired last month.
“It’s been the most enjoyable time of my life,” said the Italian-born Fieramosca, who was Prada’s SVP of footwear. “If I had to do it again, I would do the same thing. Footwear has been my baby.”
An expert in both product development and distribution, Fieramosca’s career began in 1960 at Bally of Switzerland. He studied all aspects of production, and in 1973, the company transferred him to the U.S. “In those days, it was Bally, Bruno Magli and Ferragamo,” Fieramosca recalled of the American luxury market. “There was no Prada, and Gucci had only its own retail business, which was not huge in this country.”
Fieramosca eventually left Bally to work on assignments for other high-end firms, including Ferragamo.
In 1983 he joined Cole Haan as VP of women’s shoes, and in 1992, he accepted a consulting position at Gucci in product development — the same year he launched his own footwear line, Fieramosca & Co. “Gucci at the time was not very happy [about my line], but I said if you don’t agree, I’m off the deal,” Fieramosca recalled.
Gucci relented, and for the next five years Fieramosca helped expand the label’s distribution into American department stores and independent retailers, while running his own brand on the side. “It was the only place where I could do whatever I wanted to do. It was a freedom,” he said. (Fieramosca ended production of his footwear line in 2006.)
But by 1997, he had become a Prada “fanatic.” “I was a customer, buying my clothes and shoes there,” Fieramosca said. Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli met with Fieramosca, and in early 1998 offered him a position liaising between the creative and merchandising departments. “I was involved a little bit in product,” Fieramosca said, “but I was full-speed into distribution in the U.S.”
In 2004, Fieramosca retired from Prada. For several months he worked on a freelance project for Polo Ralph Lauren, but in less than a year, Bertelli had lured him back to the company, under the condition that he could live and work primarily in the U.S. and forgo a grueling transatlantic travel schedule. “I was always in touch with Prada, and they were always in my heart,” said Fieramosca. “I will treasure [Bertelli’s] friendship forever, he is the best boss I have ever had in the industry.”
In a statement to Footwear News, Bertelli said of Fieramosca, “He has been one of our best footwear directors and has significantly contributed to the development of Prada footwear in the U.S. His expertise was not only commercial but included also technical, style and design skills. His ability to synthetize these four elements with the right balance made him one of the best professionals in the industry.”
Fieramosca said he will miss his role at Prada, but he is leaving the door open for consulting opportunities.
“It is something that is in my blood, and I will always love it. [But] at this stage of my life, it has to be something that will influence my passion. Otherwise, I am not interested,” he said. “Working with Prada was the dream of my life, and it has been great to retire under that company.”