Art Fashion

This New Exhibition Crafts a Radical Legacy for Designer Salvatore Ferragamo

Salvatore Ferragamo with his gold sandal, 1956. All images courtesy of Museo Salvatore Ferragamo.

A century has passed since designer Salvatore Ferragamo first opened the doors of his Hollywood Boulevard shop. It was from this storefront across the road from the famed Egyptian Theater that Ferragamo became known as the “shoemaker to the stars.” Now, the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence is recounting his journey with "Salvatore Ferragamo 1898-1960." 

The exhibition, running through Nov. 4, 2024, offers a new perspective on the designer’s work, informed in part by a study of his personal library, and follows a 1985 retrospective at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi. The previous show displayed Ferragamo's shoes as standalone artworks and led to the creation of the Ferragamo Archive, which houses an extensive collection of products and documents from the fashion house. In 1995, this was translated into the creation of the Florentine museum, which conserves the history of the brand with a lineup of publications, workshops, and exhibitions.

Cast for Sophia Loren’s foot, 1955.

This new presentation presents Ferragamo's pieces as artifacts of a revolution in aesthetic and functional design, weaving Ferragamo's narrative into Italy's broader artistic renaissance, and emphasizing his contribution to the post-war revival of Italian craftsmanship. It also looks at the emerging legacy of the institution itself, which has combed through the texts in Ferragamo’s personal collection, revealing a deep interest in progressive politics and philosophy.

"We aim to share the story behind each creation," explains exhibition curator Stefania Ricci, "revealing Ferragamo's unique blend of artistry, ingenuity, and cultural wisdom." As such, the exhibition is sectioned into distinct eras of Ferragamo's career. One highlight is a Hollywood Boot Shop recreation. The space brings Hollywood's Golden Age to life with an array of photographs, videos, and original designs. Elsewhere, the Equilibrium and Anatomy room elucidates Ferragamo's dedication to the science of comfort, finding that the cornerstone of footwear lies in the mantra that comfort is key. 

Actor Joan Crawford and Salvatore Ferragamo at the Hollywood Boot Shop, 1920s.

The narrative further unfolds with a display of his personal effects, from preliminary sketches to custom-made shoes for his star-studded clientele. Archival photographs and correspondences provide an intimate lens into the designer's world alongside an assortment of materials he employed, from classic leathers to the more avant-garde cork and raffia.

"Salvatore Ferragamo 1989-1960" is on view through November 4, 2024 at Museo Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence.