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Salvatore Ferragamo was born in the city of Bonito, Naples, in 1898, and died in Florence in 1960. He was one of the most distinguished footwear designers in the world; his sublime creations stimulate the imagination, they have character and spirit… they capture the essence of divinity and make it tangible. His artistic production is intimately related to the history of cinema.
Ferragamo’s remarkable interest in shoes began when he started working as a cobbler’s assistant in Naples. By the time he was 13, he was already working from his own shop, and the following year he moved to the United States, where he was introduced to the industrial production of footwear.
He started making shoes for films in California, and moved to Hollywood when the movie industry settled there. In the 1920s he became known as “the shoemaker of the stars”, with such success that it was difficult to meet the demand for his creations.Years later he would return to Italy, specifically to Florence, where he built a brand that still maintains the highest prestige in the international market.
The handmade shoes he created during this period are coveted collector’s items.We cannot say that he was ever “officially” a cobbler, even though he began as one. However, his desire to make shoes of extraordinary quality was so genuine that he didn’t stop there: to ensure that his shoes had the perfect fit, he decided to study human anatomy at the University of Southern California. His scientific approach allowed him to make important innovations in the footwear industry (wedge heels for example), and to be quite visionary.
This spring the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in Florence presents an exhibition that will surely delight those who appreciate the art of footwear. Under the title The Amazing Shoemaker, the museum uses Ferragamo’s life as background for a suite of enchanting legends and fairy tales, with shoes as protagonists.
Ferruccio Ferragamo, President of the Ferragamo Group, specified that the display is not a retrospective of the brand, and explained that some of the pieces have been created specially for the exhibition, and presented alongside older samples borrowed from other museums.
Mimmo Paladino, Alessandro Bergonzoni, Mauro Borrelli, Rick Heinrichs and Frank Espinosa are some of the artists chosen to represent the world of Ferragamo through installations, comics, animations, short films, stories and posters.
The exhibition includes shoes, boot trees of some of the stars for whom the designer worked (Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Sofia Loren, Rita Hayworth and Bette Davis among them); photographs of stars and scenes from movies that featured his shoes, a variety of accessories, clothing, and a whole world inspired by the creative genius of Salvatore Ferragamo.
The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum emphasizes the importance of fantasy and its role in human spiritual development. This is evident in the exhibition’s presentation: “today more than ever there is a need to address, by way of fantasy, the mysteries and dreams, the solutions and answers to the moral issues, doubts and problems that affect our times. In times of crisis arises a more urgent need to fantasize with imagination and overcome obstacles and fears. It is a universal necessity, since instinct is paramount”
The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum keeps its exhibits on view for two years. The Amazing Shoemaker will be open until 2015.
Here is a delightful preview of this magnificent exhibition: Museo Salvatore Ferragamo. ■