On the eve of its 100th anniversary, Salvatore Ferragamo steps in to welcome Tinseltown’s newest stage.
It was a cool evening in October when Hollywood moguls and mavens arrived at the former Beverly Hills Post Office to fête its new incarnation as the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The evening, like its sponsor, Salvatore Ferragamo—which presented a fashion show—was a balanced amalgamation of a heritage and a future—a fresh space waiting to be filled with song and dance. The Italian brand, in celebration of its 100th anniversary in America, sent a special collection of looks for an entirely contemporary woman down the runway.
The story of the fashion house is as much one of a young shoe prodigy as it is a Hollywood tale. After arriving in Boston in 1914 at age 16, Salvatore Ferragamo found his way to Santa Barbara, then the locus of the entertainment industry, where he started making shoes for movie stars. Hired by the American Film Company (aka Flying “A” Studios and now Twentieth Century Fox) to create footwear for silent films, Ferragamo outpaced his assignments and was soon providing entire shoe wardrobes for large-scale films throughout the ’20s, such as D.W. Griffith’s Way Down East and Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. Longing to wear his designs off-set, actresses began commissioning custom-made shoes for their personal wardrobes. It seemed only natural that when the movie industry moved to Los Angeles, Ferragamo went with it, opening The Hollywood Boot Shop at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Las Palmas Avenue in 1923. Talent like Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Rudolf Valentino—themselves experiencing a new kind of celebrity—flocked to him. “The glamour of that time was very exciting,” says the brand’s creative director, Massimiliano Giornetti, from the Beverly Wilshire Hotel days before the Annenberg gala (and while holding his arm in a deep red cast—an injury he incurred while trying to avoid a biker on the street in Florence). Though the sensibility of the collection unveiled at the Annenberg Center was a modern one, small throwbacks that echoed the brand’s star-studded DNA were woven throughout (while Ferragamo eventually returned to Italy, his relationship to the movie industry was cemented). “You think about the big change in Hollywood and the rise of actors and celebrity—Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo—that’s the reason I wanted to have this lingerie factor,” explains Gionetti. “For me it’s the very sophistication of Hollywood—the idea of sensuality, of neutrals, of beautiful craftsmanship like handmade embroidery.” To house the boudoir-inspired eveningwear was a Ferragamo pop-up store, with one-of-a-kind accessories—from graphic Lucite clutches to an enviably strappy python wedge. “The ideas really came from the archive, but were reinvented in a modern way,” notes the designer. “Sometimes using very 1930s materials—plexiglass, this kind of transparent and translucent effect. It’s part of Salvatore Ferragamo, but never nostalgic—very cool, very modern, linking the past with the future.”
“I really feel that the Ferragamo consumer is in the L.A. style,” he continues. “It’s much more about the preciousness of the time that you spend being very healthy, being very sporty, very relaxed—but always very elegant.”
Written by Molly Creeden