‘1927. The return to Italy’

The influence of the ‘900 Italian visual culture on the work of Salvatore Ferragamo ‘the shoemaker to the stars’

From 19 May 2017 to 02 May 2018

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From 19th May 2017 to 2 nd May 2018 the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, located in the elegant halls of Palazzo Spini Feroni in Florence, is set to house the exhibition '1927. Return to Italy' dedicated to the crucial moment when Ferragamo decided to move back to Italy, where his work as a designer was deeply inspired by Florence’s artistic influences of that time.

Salvatore Ferragamo, born in Bonito, a small village near Naples, showed from a young age his deep passion for shoes when at only 13 years of age he opened his first shoe-repair shop. The young boy did not waste time and at 16 he joined his brother in America. Just a few years later, young Ferragamo opened the Hollywood Boot Shop, which turned out to be a launching pad for Ferragamo’s frequent collaborations with film productions and famous film stars. It was during this time that the press dubbed Ferragamo "shoemaker to the stars". In 1927, a crucial date and title of the exhibition, he decided to return to Italy and the choice of Florence was by no means accidental. Ferragamo knew in fact that only here he could find artisans with the right skills to materialise his ideas, as he was convinced that his shoes were to be made strictly by hand. But Florence also offered something infinitely precious: artistic inspiration. This did not exclusively derive from the great monuments scattered around Florence, but also and above all by the public and private collections that in the 1920s were proof of the birth and flourishing of applied arts. This is precisely the cultural and artistic context that will be examined and showcased by the exhibition.

In the following years Ferragamo's production, despite several problems due to the 1929 crisis, grew to such an extent that in 1939 he rented two workshops in the Spini Feroni Palace, which he eventually managed to buy. The 'shoe designer', as we would call him nowadays, was ahead of his time and many of his 'inventions' are still considered highly fashionable. This is immediately evident if we turn our attention to the most famous designs of some of Salvatore Ferragamo's shoes. Ferragamo and art is a marriage that has always given birth to innovative creations with a strong aesthetic value. Ferragamo was the creator of cork wraps and the stiletto heels with metal reinforcements made famous thanks to Marylin Monroe. He also designed an invisible sandal with an upper made of one continuous ‘invisible’ nylon thread and an F-shaped wedge heel in honour of Futurism. For this amazing design he won the 'Neiman Marcus Award' – the fashion world’s equivalent of the Oscar. In the 1950s Spini Feroni Palace was a highly-coveted shopping destination by many famous actresses, including Ava Gardner, Greta Garbo, Italian Anna Magnani and Sofia Loren and Audrey Hepburn who allloved Salvatore Ferragamo's ballet flats. After Ferragamo’s death in 1960, the Ferragamo family upheld his legacy and turned his last remaining wish into reality: to convert his business into a great fashion brand. So the passion transmitted to Ferragamo’s sons and daughters is preserved thanks to the establishment of a brand known all over the world. 

The 2107/2018 Ferragamo exhibition at the Ferragamo Museum focuses on the moment of migration from America to Italy and analyses the cultural setting that influenced Salvatore Ferragamo as a designer. Curated by Carlo Sisi and arranged by Maurizio Balò, the Ferragamo Museum exhibition begins by analysing the cultural and social factors of the post-war period and then moves on to the analysis of the elements and works that ultimately influenced Ferragamo as a designer in those years. Back then, Florence was a buzzling place where artisans felt inspired by the emergence of avant-garde art expressions. Ferragamo Salvatore was, in fact, influenced both by the ancient pieces of the Stibbert collection, which inspired the elaborate weaving patterns of Ferragamo Salvatore shoes and by the avant-garde futurist artists, amongst them Gio Ponti, Tahyant and Sonia Delauny. The latter designed her first 'abstract clothes' with colours resembling her paintings, with simple lines and patchwork details which would eventually become a motif replicated in the shoes of Salvatore Ferragamo during those years.

The exhibition will display works from national and international museums and various artists’ collections from that period. Their works will interact with Salvatore Ferragamo’s creations. The Ferragamo exhibition will present works by the architect Giò Ponti, the eclectic and innovative artist Thyant, whose works include paintings, jewellery and fashion, Mino Maccari, a painter and writer, the illustrator and painter Alberto Martini, Fortunato Depero, the Futurist who designed the Campari bottle, Balla Giacomo, a painter and set designer, and finally Ottone Rosai. You will be able to admire Lucio Venna's advertisement sketches, which recall the brand’s patented trademark and show several footwear models, amongst them the 'Caligola' model: intertwined red strings that could easily belong to the latest collection when they were in fact designed in the 1930s! The same goes for the so-called 'Scarpa Due Pezzi', an elegant décolleté where the part covering the forefoot and the one that embraces the heel are separate. The embroidered black satin upper, with Tavernelle lace and silver kidskin, makes this shoe a dream-like design. Also interesting is Alberto Martini’s 1931 surrealist painting, entitled 'La Marchesa Casati in Veste Euterpe', juxtaposed to a couple of déolleté shoes that could be the emblem of that period: this is a pair of décolletés with an upper in black antelope skin decorated with red circles bordered by a yellow silk thread. Salvatore Ferragamo shoes for women are simply iconic: real artworks that have made women of all ages dream and who will do the same to you. In addition to paintings and shoes, you will be able to admire a number of other interesting items such as sketches, costumes, vintage fabrics and superbly crafted items.

At the Ferragamo Museum, Exhibitions are a great opportunity to visit a wonderful city like Florence and its unparalleled historical centre. After the exhibition, take a stroll along Via Tornabuoni where the museum is located and where you will find the most exclusive boutiques. After a shopping session, as long as you haven’t been too traumatized by the prices, do not forget to choose one of our Florence Tours. You will find out why Ferragamo chose to stay here rather than in Rome, Milan or Naples. What are you waiting for? Book one of our hotels in Florence and plan your trip to enjoy art, fashion and why not, even a bit of shopping.


By Insidecom Editorial Staff