Salvatore Ferragamo (1898-1960)

Salvatore Ferragamo – registered as Salvadore – was born in Bonito (AV) on 5th June 1898.

The eleventh of fourteen children, he had to start working at the age of nine to help his family, which was living in dire financial straits: he began his apprenticeship at the village shoemaker’s shop, where his natural inclination towards the profession and innate skill soon led him to open his own business. At the age of 14, in fact, he was already a small businessman, employing as many as four workers.

In 1914, he moved to the United States to join some of his brothers who had emigrated before him in search of fortune. He found work easily and even managed to open his own business there, first in Santa Barbara and then in Hollywood.

At the same time, he took several evening and correspondence courses at various American universities, including anatomy, mathematics and chemical engineering; all disciplines that provided him with a solid technical-scientific basis to perfect his work.

The opening of the Hollywood Boot Shop in 1923 definitively established him as the ‘shoemaker to the stars’, such was the demand from Hollywood stars to buy custom-made, made-to-measure shoes full of inventiveness and creativity from him. The demand for production grew to such an extent that he returned to Italy and moved to Florence, where he opened a manual shoe workshop, where about 60 employees made shoes from the models he designed.

After a brief period of crisis in the early 1930s, Ferragamo’s business grew considerably, bringing its name to international attention and opening branches in various European cities. In 1937, he also patented one of his most famous creations, the cork wedge heel, which became a successful fashion worldwide. In 1947, he received, together with Christian Dior, the Neiman Marcus Award, considered the fashion Oscar reserved for internationally distinguished fashion professionals.

In the 1950s, thanks to the rise of Italian fashion and the economic boom, the Ferragamo company experienced significant growth, employing around 700 people and producing 350 pairs of shoes per day, still mainly handmade.

Following complications in his health, he died in Florence on 7th August 1960.

You can consult the birth certificate on the Ancestors Portal: Archivio di Stato di Avellino > Stato civile italiano > Bonito > 1898

The original is kept at the State Archives in Avellino.

For more on the figure of Salvatore Ferragamo, see the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani entry edited by Valeria Pinchera.

Salvatore Ferragamo’s archives – comprising numerous shoes, bags, patents, drawings, photographs and other accessories – are preserved in the museum of the same name, opened in 1995 at the company’s historic headquarters in Florence.

Archivio di Stato di Avellino > Stato civile italiano > Bonito > 1898