Although he was born in Southern Italy, Salvatore Ferragamo owes a lot to Southern California. He came to Los Angeles in 1923 as a young man in his 20s, first designing shoes for films such as "The Ten Commandments," then opening the Hollywood Boot Shop at Hollywood Boulevard and Las Palmas. There, he built the foundation for today's global luxury brand by becoming cobbler to the stars.
Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson and Audrey Hepburn were clients. He even studied anatomy at the University of Southern California to learn how to make his shoes more comfortable, before returning to Italy in 1927 and settling in Florence, where he focused on developing visionary designs such as the cage and the wedge heels.
Ferragamo died in 1960, but his name lives on in the family-run business. His eldest daughter in particular, the late Fiamma Ferragamo, carried on her father's legacy for invention, by coming up with the classic bow-front "Vara" pump in 1978.
Now Ferragamo is returning to Southern California in spectacular fashion, giving back to the place where it all began by sponsoring the opening night gala for the new Zoltan Pali-designed Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills on Oct. 17. There will be guests dressed in glittering red-carpet gowns designed by the brand's creative director, Massimiliano Giornetti; a runway show of his spring 2014 collection, which debuted just weeks ago in Milan; and a monthlong pop-up shop of special pieces created just for Los Angeles.
We chatted with Giornetti in advance of his trip about his most recent runway collection and how L.A. inspires him.
What part does the mythology of Hollywood play in the Ferragamo brand story?
Honestly, when I design a dress or accessory, I don't think about one particular actress or the fact that the history of the brand is connected to celebrities. I'm more keen on the idea of designing for real people. Of course you have the red carpet, which is an important part of the business. But for me, it's more inspirational to see people in real life, people in their private moments wearing Ferragamo. For a fashion designer, it's important to translate the moment in which we are living, and what people are talking about in society and art, into a collection. That's one reason why for spring 2014, and really for the past few seasons, I haven't played up the idea of eveningwear as much on the runway, but saved it more for special events.
What inspired the spring 2014 collection?
Spring was about duality. On one side, you had purity and on the other sensuality. I was very inspired by the minimalist Mexican architect Miguel Angel Aragones and the idea of tailoring and construction mixed with more fluid, feminine elements and lingerie details. What I love about Mexican architects is that they are very rational and at the same time user-friendly. I'm always trying to link that idea with fashion... Salvatore's work was always connected with the idea of making beautiful but comfortable shoes.
If you have any free time, what do you want to do in L.A.?
L.A. for me is about art and architecture. I like the modernism, the movement. Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and the aesthetic of the 1960s inspire me, particularly in menswear...If I have time, I'd like to visit the L.A. County Museum of Art, Just One Eye, which is one of my favorite stores, and Palm Springs, again for the architecture.
Tell me about what's going to be in the pop-up shop?
The items were developed for the event — handbags, shoes, fine jewelry. There will be some iconic pieces from the archive, including the invisible wedge, and the hybrid sandal to celebrate the modernism in the work of Salvatore.
Do you have a favorite story about Salvatore Ferragamo and in his early days in L.A.?
One of his first private clients was actress Pola Negri. She wanted plain white satin court shoes, which she would then send off to be dyed different colors to match her dresses. Seeing an opportunity, Salvatore installed a dye machine in his own shop so he could do it all for her there. Fulfilling the customer's wishes has always been the driving force of the brand.
The Ferragamo Hollywood pop-up shop will be open to the public at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills) from Oct. 18 through Nov. 15.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun