Great article about brand's history and Wanda Ferragamo, who died 10/15/18

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  1. #1 Oct 26, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2018
    Very interesting article about her immense contributions to the brand! And for fans of the Vara shoe, be sure to read on!

    10/24/18 article Here's the full text in case it's locked:
    [​IMG]Wanda Ferragamo in her office outside Florence in 2008. “I had never worked in my life before my husband died,” she said. She and her children then expanded his company. Credit Massimo Sestini

    Wanda Ferragamo, 96, Dies; Reigned Over Family’s Luxury Goods Empire
    By Rachel Syme

    Wanda Ferragamo, who stepped in to run her husband Salvatore Ferragamo’s shoemaking business after his death in 1960 and then oversaw its expansion into a global luxury goods brand, died on Friday in her hilltop villa near Florence. She was 96.

    An internal company memo signed by her surviving children confirmed her death.

    When Salvatore Ferragamo died of cancer in 1960 at 62, Mrs. Ferragamo, then 38, decided to take over the business herself, despite having no experience working in the industry — or working outside the home at all.

    “I had never worked in my life before my husband died,” she told Time magazine in 2007. “I was a very young girl when I met him. At that time, women were taught only to play the piano and paint and learn about culture. That’s all.”

    The couple had six children, the youngest being only 2 years old. But she felt that she had to carry out her husband’s vision — to push the company beyond footwear. And she insisted that it be known by his full name, Salvatore Ferragamo.

    Over five decades, first as president and then as chairwoman, Mrs. Ferragamo oversaw the growth of the company from a small shoe-design and manufacturing concern in Florence into a leading luxury goods house that ranged beyond shoes to sell leather wallets, silk scarves, crystal flacons of perfume and much more.

    When she had inherited the business, it made 800 pairs of shoes a month. By 1981, it was making 60,000 a month in addition to selling handbags and men’s wear. She introduced eyewear in the 1990s, and she opened stores in New York, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Mexico City.

    Mrs. Ferragamo would arrive at the office every morning at 10:30. In the hallways of the company’s headquarters, in the Palazzo Spini Feroni, a magnificent Medieval palace on Via de’ Tornabuoni in Florence, she was known as “Signora,” always wearing elegant clothing and her trademark seven-centimeter high heels.

    One of her first and boldest decisions was to make her daughter Fiamma the company’s creative force. Fiamma Ferragamo was 19 when her father died, and she had already been designing shoes under his tutelage.

    The decision paid off: Fiamma invented the Vara shoe, a round-toed pump with a grosgrain ribbon and gold medallion that remains the company’s most popular item. Another daughter, Fulvia, oversaw the company’s expansion into silks.

    Her four other children — Giovanna, Leonardo, Massimo and Ferruccio — were also given prominent roles in the company, as were grandchildren later on.

    Insisting that the business should remain in the family, Mrs. Ferragamo rejected several offers over the years to sell it, and she navigated its first public stock offering in 2011. According to Bloomberg News, Salvatore Ferragamo now reports an annual revenue of over $1.6 billion.

    In 2004 Mrs. Ferragamo was awarded the Cavaliere di Gran Croce, or grand cross, a top honor in Italy. She stepped down as chairwoman in 2006 and took the title of honorary chairwoman. She remained as head of the Ferragamo Foundation, an educational initiative begun in 2013 that supports young Italian artisans with funding and training courses.

    Wanda Miletti was born on Dec. 18, 1921, in Bonito, a hilly village in southern Italy about 55 miles east of Naples. Her father was a medical doctor and the town’s mayor; her mother was a homemaker.

    It was in Bonito that she met Salvatore, who was 24 years her senior. He had been born there in 1898, the 11th of 14 children of a poor farmer and his wife, who grew wheat and olives. But it was a circuitous path that had led him to Wanda.

    Mr. Ferragamo had left school at 9 to work as an apprentice to a local cobbler. By age 11 he was working in the trade in Naples. When he was 16, he traveled to the United States, first to work at a shoe factory in Boston, and then to Santa Barbara, Calif., where he joined his brothers. He wound up in Hollywood, where he set up a business making shoes for the studios during the silent film era.

    There he made Egyptian sandals and Western boots for Cecil B. de Mille’s large-scale epics, and became a sought-after heel-maker for screen sirens like Joan Crawford, Anna May Wong, Greta Garbo and Lillian Gish.

    He returned to Italy in 1927 and set up a shoe shop in Florence. The financial crash of 1929 had him declaring bankruptcy, but by the late 1930s he had been able to pay off his debts and purchase the Palazzo Spini Feroni.
  2. continued...

    [​IMG]Salvatore and Wanda Ferragamo in the 1940s. They were married in Naples and spent their first married night watching Allied planes attack the city.Creditvia Museo Salvatore Ferragamo

    When he moved in, Mr. Ferragamo wanted to fill the building not only with footwear but also with family. So he went on a tour of Italy — to go “shopping for a wife,” as he wrote in his autobiography. He found her in his hometown, Bonito, where he had become a local benefactor.

    There, Dr. Miletti invited Mr. Ferragamo to his home and, according to Mr. Ferragamo’s memoirs, the two men entered into a conversation about the contours of the foot. Mr. Ferragamo asked Dr. Miletti’s daughter, Wanda, if he could use her for a shoe-fitting demonstration. He fell in love with her the moment he saw that she “had one toe peeping out of her stocking,” he wrote.

    Two weeks later, Mr. Ferragamo sent her a pair of custom black suede oxfords. “I had never worn anything so comfortable,” Mrs. Ferragamo later recalled. “I thought I could fly.”

    They married in a church in Naples in the fall of 1940 — she was 18, he was 42 — and as Mr. Ferragamo told it, they spent their first married night watching Allied planes attack the city.

    They and their family later lived in a 30-room villa in Fiesole, a hilltop town four miles northeast of Florence.

    The Ferragamo headquarters in Florence is also the site of the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, an archival museum that Mrs. Ferragamo helped found in 1995 to chronicle and celebrate her husband’s footwear innovations, including the first cork wedge sandals and the architectural cage heel, a hollow metal cylinder that was strong enough to support body weight.

    Mrs. Ferragamo is survived by her son Ferruccio, who is now president and chairman; her daughter Giovanna Gentile Ferragamo, who is vice chairwoman; her son Massimo, who is chairman of Ferragamo USA; her son Leonardo, who is also a senior executive; 23 grandchildren; and many great-grandchildren. The family says she leaves “more than 70” descendants.

    Fiamma di San Giuliano Ferragamo died of breast cancer in 1998 at age 57. Fulvia Visconti Ferragamo died, also of cancer, in March at 67.

    Even after stepping into an honorary role, Mrs. Ferragamo continued to advise her children. Internally, she was known as the company’s “second pioneer.”

    “When my husband died his dream was a House of Ferragamo where you could buy shoes and everything else for elegant dressing,” Mrs. Ferragamo told The Times in 1981. “So little by little we followed that dream.”

    Correction: October 24, 2018
    An earlier version of this obituary misstated Salvatore Ferragamo’s age when he died in 1960. He was 62, not 63. It also misstated the location of Fiesole, the village where Mr. and Mrs. Ferragamo had a villa. It is on a hilltop, not on the banks of the Arno River. The earlier version misspelled in one instance the name of one of Mrs. Ferragamo’s sons. He is Ferruccio, not Ferrucio. It also misspelled in one instance part of the name of the palace in Florence that is the company’s headquarters. It is the Palazzo Spini Feroni, not Spina.
  3. Thanks for sharing.
  4. Great read. Thank you for sharing!
  5. Very interesting! What an amazing lady! One wonders what will become of the Ferragamo company now that its matriarch has passed on. The company is in financial trouble and there have been repeated rumors over the past few months that the family is pursuing the sale of its controlling shares, rumors always denied but which seem to persist.

    A few weeks ago the NY Times ran a story about "Italy's Shadow Economy" about how well-known Italian luxury brands subcontract out the making of its hallmark products. Ultimately the products often end up being crafted by home workers making sweatshop wages. The article frequently mentions Ferragamo and its shoes.

    Isn't Ferragamo the last of the Italian luxury brands that's family owned? Apparently they've had trouble appealing to younger luxury consumers. It will be interesting to see what happens to the company in the coming year.
    favoritethingshawaii likes this.
  6. I didn't see that NYT article - very eye opening and sad.

    Yes, it will be interesting to see what will happen in the coming year. Ferragamo was the very first luxury bag I purchased. I hope they can continue on.
  7. Very interesting reads. I’m pretty new to the brand and didn’t know any of the history of the brand. It’s really impressive how she took over after he passed with basically no work history. I like that they have managed to keep it a family run business. I wonder what the next year will hold for them. I didn’t know that they are struggling finically as a company, which could have the potential to go sour especially if the survivors go at it with each other. Deaths and money can bring on some ugly behavior. I hope that they are all on the same page. The other article was interesting to read too. I often don’t give much thought about the production of the items I buy. You just kind of assume that with such large companies that they have everything done in house not outsourced to underpaid independent contractors essentially. It makes it really hard to justify the price of luxury items now knowing how little the people who made it earn.
    ccbaggirl89 and pureplatinum like this.
  8. It really is true, i.e. death bringing out the ugliness in people. I've seen this so often but it's always still shocking.

    Ferragamo recently fired the CEO that was hired to turn the company around and make it appealing to young consumers.

    It should be very interesting to see what happens to the company, and the family that is struggling to hold it together in the coming year. It's not farfetched to see them selling to the LVMH behemoth.

    I hadn't paid much attention to Ferragamo until recently. I'd heard of their shoes, but lately discovered their scarves. The themes and colors appeal to me--animals, flowers, pastels. Plus you can find them second-hand for about $50 on the Bay.
  9. I have been buying their shoes for 2 decades, but the last collections (spring/summer 18 and fall/winter 18/19) weren‘t for me. I hope that they concentrate on their base and don‘t go crazy like so many others do currently...
  10. That was a nice read..thank you for sharing
  11. Thank you for sharing. I too have just relatively recently been drawn to Ferragamo. But I think they have superb craftsmanship and materials. Their bags especially are so understated. Love its clean aesthetics. I can only imagine how better it was before.

    It is quite a feat how Signora Ferragamo took the business to new heights after her husband’s passing. I can’t help but wonder what will happen now to the brand given its financial standing. Wishing the best for it.
  12. Wow! Great read! Thanks for posting as I'm new to the brand.
  13. I wonder. I really like how they have been approaching this logo mania era with understated and clever takes on the logo.

    Craftsmanship is still great but I have noticed some new bags are no longer leather lined, I’m assuming a cost cutting measure.

    Lately I’ve noticed some more youthful energy so I am going g that translated into a rejuvenation of the brand with younger buyers.
    ccbaggirl89 likes this.