Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Savatore Ferragamo - the architect of modern footwear

Whilst trawling the internet for bridesmaid shoes, I stumbled upon these, available at Office:

I thought ‘hmmm, these look familiar’ as they bear a striking resemblance to a suede pair designed in 1938 for Judy Garland by the visionary designer, Salvatore Ferragamo (1898-1960).

This pair were playfully entitled ‘Rainbow’

Office aren’t the only ones who have taken inspiration from this remarkable pair of shoes.  A few years ago, Jeffery Campbell made a pair called ‘Groovie’ that again show more than a passing nod.

Many of Ferragamo’s creations look decades ahead of their time.

Top Row L-R: ‘Lauren’; gold stacked heel ; 2006 version of the 1955 Cage Heel
Bottom Left: kid-covered cork, 1939
Ferragamo was known for his revolutionary heels, including the ‘f-heel’ wedge (may be familiar to fans of Irregular Choice):

from L-R: the 'America’; the famous ‘f-wedge’ heel in purple kid, 1947;
'The Invisible' sandal with nylon thread upper, 1947. See also the ‘Twist’ model

If all of that wasn’t enough, he is also credited with inventing the stiletto in 1955 (the ‘Romantica’) after having studied architectural pillars (architecture was always a major influence on Ferragamo’s designs).  One of the things that enabled Ferragamo to produce such statuesque creations was the years of anatomical study he went through in America.  He wanted the shoes to be beautiful, but also comfortable.

You can see early sketches of the 1938 'Maharani',
as well as a woven straw pair from the same year

Ferragamo may be best known for creating Dorothy's Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz (1939) as well as Marilyn Monroe's red Swarovski crystal encrusted stilettoes (1959). The designer was as popular off-screen as he was on, designing for many of the personal wardrobes of Hollywood’s greatest stars.

The personal lasts of his A-list clients,
see the names written on each one

Sophia Loren being fitted by S.F. and her namesake, the re-released (in 2008) ‘Sophia’

Of the 350 patents S.F. took out (including the cork wedge in 1937) and the 20,000 models of footwear he designed, he only ever produced one pair of men’s shoes – the ‘Salvatore’, a beautiful black patent leather dress shoe.  One his more bizarre designs featured ankle boots covered in monkey hair.  I’d say it’s not surprising they didn’t catch on, but I think hair embellishments did make their way back onto the catwalks fairly recently!  

from L-R: leather and silk 'Ninfea', 1938-9; leather and cotton 'Booty', 1947

Salvatore Ferragamo is still operating as a global brand, but I prefer to think of what was created by the eponymous designer during his heyday that spanned 4 decades.

There is a Salvatore Ferragamo museum in Florence, Italy with the money made from tickets going to footwear design scholarships.  I’m trying to convince myself that a trip to Florence just to go to a shoe museum is entirely justifiable!

- also just found out that the Metropolitan museum in New York has a huge collection of his shoes - how did I not find that room!
retro swimsuits and bikinis

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