In my first entry of Salvatore Ferragamo’s story, we reviewed the man’s humble beginnings and got a small glimpse of the ambition that drew him from the small village of Bonito, outside Naples, to Boston, where he was exposed to modern machinery, and, finally, to Hollywood.
Shoemaker to the stars
In the early Twenties, Salvatore convinced his brother to move with him to California. They settled in Santa Barbra, first, where he opened a small shoemaking and repair shop while he studied at the University of Southern California in several fields that would help him perfect his craft: human anatomy, chemical engineering, and mathematics.
It just so happened that, simultaneously, the film industry was beginning to rise. During this time, Salvatore began making himself available to the film industry, and it wasn’t long before he followed the industry to Hollywood. In 1923, he opened Hollywood Boot Shop. The shop was wildly successful, so much so that the local media dubbed him the “shoemaker to the stars.”
After four years in Hollywood, Ferragamo moved his operations back to his home country of Italy, settling in Florence because of its reputation for attracting highly-trained craftsmen. From Florence, Salvatore built a small empire, employing highly-specialized manual laborers in an assembly line process to produce a great number of his intricate shoes.
But this success wouldn’t last long: the Great Depression was just around the corner, and American consumers were about to need a lot fewer of Ferragamo’s luxurious shoes.