When most shoe lovers think about designer shoes, the first designers that come to their minds are Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahnik. All super gorgeous, but incredibly high heels. Little do they know, that one the first popular designer heel was a very comfortable one: Ferragamo's Vara pump. One of the most sold pair of shoes worldwide and an iconic shoe that breathes beauty, craftsmanship and above all, comfort.
Salvatore Ferragamo: the grandpa of the Italian shoe
The Ferragamo empire started with Salvatore Ferragamo, an innovator in footwear design. Salvatore was born in Bonito, Italy as the 11th of 14 children in a humble, agricultural family. Ever since he was young, he was determined to become a shoe maker and started his first apprenticeship in Naples at a cobbler, when he was only 9 years old. He moved back to Bonito while he was still an adolescent, and he opened his workshop with six assistants, where he produced custom-fitted shoes. His brother worked in the States during that time and he invited Salvatore to come to the US, Salvatore only being 17 years old. So he went to Santa Barbara, to open his own repair shop, where he repaired the shoes of celebrities. In 1923, he opened the Hollywood Boot Shop, where celebrities could buy outrageous footwear, with appliques, glitter, feathers and pearls. He was named the 'Shoemaker of the stars', designing for stars like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Soon enough Ferragamo labels could be found all over the States. His standards for for measuring and sizing, combined with originality, influenced the entire shoe-industry.
Fiamma Ferragamo: like father, like daughter
Salvatore and his wife Wanda, had six beautiful children together, from whom the eldest was Fiamma. Fiamma means flame in Italian and she sure was a feisty lady. When she was only 16, she was being groomed by her father, to take over the business. Whenever Salvatore went on business trip, she was fully responsible for 700 employees, producing 350 pairs of shoes per day. He also taught her that comfort comes first and fashion second, which is the key to the design of the Ferragamo shoe. Fiamma showed her first collection in 1960, when she was 19 years old, and obviously inherited her fathers talent. Unfortunately Salvatore died in 1960, so suddenly Fiamma was at the head of the company. She regularly visited the selling points of the brand and talked to the women who wore her shoes, to involve their feedback into her new designs. She designed between 400 and 500 models of shoes in just one year, with the same comfort and fashion sense her father did. She died in 1998, but left as much heritage behind as her father did.
The Ferragamo Vara Pump
Fiamma was responsible for designing the most popular and iconic shoe style, the Vara. The Vara was a practical pump created in 1978. The midheel, calfskin pump is detailed with a gros-grain bow on the toe, fastened with a metal buckle, with the family signature engraved in the leather. The shoe is designed to fit into the lifestyle of a sporty yet elegant woman. Fun fact: the first prototype of the shoe was given a improvised bow, out of a strip of gros-grain. The bow was actually meant to be made from leather, but the modeller misunderstood!