At Milan Fashion Week, Salvatore Ferragamo wowed audiences with an audacious series of sporty platforms. But the Italian label has a long history of great design, dating back to the late 1920s. Much of that history is preserved in the company’s archive and museum in Florence, Italy.
Stefania Ricci, Ferragamo’s museum and archive director, shared a few inside details about the historical collection and some of its most valuable pieces.
How many items are in the archive?
“We have close to 15,000 because we also collect the latest collections.”
Which piece is the oldest?
“We have a shoe that dates to 1927, when Salvatore Ferragamo came back from the U.S. The name of the shoe is Labyrinth. This shoe has on the upper a special embroidery, which is handmade in silk. It’s like a cubist drawing, and it’s very dramatic.”
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What is the most valuable shoe?
“We have a golden shoe that Ferragamo made in 1966 for an Australian customer. It was very important because it was 18k gold and was made with a goldsmith on Ponte Vecchio. The shoes cost $1,000 in the 1960s. Also, we have another sandal that we made for a charity for Elton John in 2001, and there are diamonds on the shoes. The value of those was more than 25,000 euros [or $25,800 at current exchange].”
Does the archive include shoes worn by celebrities?
“Yes, we have a lot of shoes made for Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn and others.”
What is your favorite piece in the collection?
“It’s not easy to select, because they are like pieces of art and are so different. One of my favorites is a laced shoe that is made of cellophane, which is usually used to cover bonbons. Ferragamo used it during the 1930s, because it was the beginning of the second World War and it was impossible to get leather for the shoes. A box of bonbons was given to his mother, so he had the idea to give the cellophane to the women that work with cotton, and they crocheted the upper of the shoe. It’s a beautiful shoe. It’s black cellophane and it also has yellow and red cellophane. Very elegant, but very new and unique.”
Does the archive inspire current Ferragamo designs?
“Yes, for example, in the fall ’16 fashion show for men in Milan, Massimiliano Giornetti used a special shoe made by Salvatore Ferragamo for Andy Warhol. It’s a lace-up shoe in Kautschuk [rubber], but it’s painted by Andy Warhol. It’s a very important piece from our collection.”
Can outsiders visit the archive?
“Part of the archive is frequented by students and young people who want to study shoes. Mainly, it is used by our designers and people who work in communications and other parts of our company, because it’s important to know the DNA of our company.”
Click through the slideshow to see 10 of the most historic Ferragamo shoes: