FLORENCE, Italy – In 1914, Salvatore Ferragamo left Italy, aged just 15 years old, to seek his fortune in the United States and realise his dream of becoming a famous shoemaker. Setting up shop in Hollywood, Ferragamo soon gained a reputation for creating fabulous and inventive footwear, enticing the leading female stars of the film industry and a host of other luminary figures through his door.
After a few years, through word of mouth the young Italian from the little village of Bonito in Southern Italy was unable to keep up with the demand for his product. In 1927, Ferragamo chose to return to the country of his birth, setting up his business in Florence, the capital of Italian elegance at the time and the centre of Italian leather craftsmanship. “We owe to Florence a lot, because if it wasn’t for Florence I don’t know if we would have achieved what we have achieved,” Ferruccio Ferragamo, Salvatore’s son and the executive chairman tells BoF.
“He came back because he had dreams of making shoes that were unique, for him it was creating that partnership with the incredible [Florentine] artisans that could help him make those dreams a reality,” adds James Ferragamo, vice chairman and the grandson of his family company’s eponymous founder.
We don’t really believe in one single individual that knows it all, we believe that it is a team effort.
Today, Salvatore Ferragamo is a public company with revenues in excess of $1.3 billion. However, despite evolving from a single individual to a global team of over 4000 employees during its 90-year history, the same spirit of shared passion, teamwork and respect for communities, established by Salvatore Ferragamo’s first partnerships with Florentine craftsmen, continues to define the company today.
“We don’t really believe in one single individual that knows it all, we believe that it is a team effort. It is that ability to have the best people around the table that can help in making the decision,” says James Ferragamo. Salvatore Ferragamo has committed to an ambitious CSR agenda, entitled: Responsible Passion. The comprehensive programme is designed around 9 pillars, addressing both sustainable and environmental issues, as well as initiatives seeking to nurture and protect the global cultures and communities Salvatore Ferragamo plays a part in, from craftsmen and women, to Florence and the world beyond it.
Just as Salvatore Ferragamo’s company culture continues to be informed by its founder’s approach to collaboration, its operations and strategy are rooted in its heritage of innovation. In addition to investing in state-of-the-art fulfilment facilities the size of four football fields, designed to empower the company’s global distribution, the brand is consistently reimagining its production processes to ensure its product is in “a constant state of evolution,” explains James Ferragamo.
“Now, we are in a situation where we are trying to see how we can grab our opportunities and make them into a reality. We really don’t think about leadership, we think about teamwork. It is very much about making sure that we are making decision together,” he continues.