Salvatore Ferragamo was born in Bonito, Italy in 1898. He was a shoe designer and trained as a shoemaker from a young age. His passion for shoes and ambition drove him to America when he was just sixteen, and he soon opened a store in Los Angeles. His business began to thrive as he custom-made shoes for movie stars and powerful women in Hollywood.
On returning to Italy in 1927, he opened a workshop in Florence designing innovative and expertly crafted shoes for a rich and powerful clientele. With the Great Depression of 1929, international trade and his financial relationship with the American market suffered, which led to his bankruptcy. He did, however, make a triumphant return in 1936 despite the unstable economic and political climate of Mussolini’s Italy at the time. That is when the designer became famous for introducing the “wedge” heel, and he continued to experiment with new styles and materials.
In 1938, Ferragamo purchased the Palazzo Spini Feroni (which still houses the company headquarters in the early twenty-first century and now also the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo—a museum dedicated to the designer’s life and work). In 1947, he became the first footwear designer to win the prestigious Neiman Marcus Award. Ferragamo passed away in 1960 and his family continued to run and expand the business.