Salvatore Ferragamo shoeed all of Hollywood – from Marilyn Monroe to Audrey Hepburn. But in his life there were only two loves: for high-quality shoes and for his wife Wanda.
Before you tell a love story, you need to remember that Salvatore was 24 years older than Wanda. By the time she was born, Ferragamo managed to found his own company and conquer American movie stars. He was a real child prodigy: born in the family of a poor farmer in southern Italy, dropped out of school at 9 years old, and at 12 already set up a shoe workshop where two people worked for him. Gradually, the team expanded, the enterprise became more successful, and at 16 Salvatore emigrated to America – there were more opportunities and less competition (after all, shoe shops in Italy are a family business that is found at every turn).
Together with his brothers, he opened a workshop in Hollywood, and he did not fail – the film industry was developing rapidly, and someone needed to create shoes for silent films with Greta Garbo. Very soon, young Salvatore was called "the shoe-maker of all Hollywood stars." He was indifferent to actresses – and after 13 years in the USA he returned to Italy to found Ferragamo.
It was there that he met Wanda. It was 1940, fascist Italy suffered from war. The mayor of the small town of Bonito, where Salvatore was born and raised, turned to him for help – he wanted to build a dining room for the poor, but there were not enough public funds for this. Salvatore agreed to help, but at the same time he met his daughter.
Ferragamo came to the mayor's home to discuss matters, but he was not at home. At the threshold, he was met by 18-year-old Wanda, and then everything happened like in Hollywood romantic comedies: love at first sight, engagement, wedding. True, the story of Salvatore and Wanda more closely resembles the story of Cinderella inside out. Salvatore talked about the proportions of the foot with her father – a local doctor – and asked Wanda to show him his leg for clarity. On her stockings was a small hole that finally won the heart of Ferragamo. “I fell in love immediately,” he wrote in his autobiography.
A week later, Salvatore sends a pair of “wedding” shoes from Florence – suede brogues with a 7-centimeter heel, popular in wartime. The couple got married 3 months later in Naples. On their wedding night, they watched Entente planes destroy the city from the sky.
Wanda was 18, Salvatore – 42. The newlyweds settled in a 30-room palace in Fiesole, a small town near Florence, where some of their heirs still live: 6 children, 23 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren.
Together they lived for 20 years. With the death of her husband in 1960, Wanda took over the management of the business and, from a small but successful enterprise, built a shoe empire and founded a fashion house. When she inherited the company, Ferragamo made 800 pairs of shoes a month. By 1981, the figure had risen to 60,000; the company also sold bags and men's clothing.
“Before my husband died, I did not work a day,” she told Time magazine in 2007. “I was very young when I met him.” At that time, women were only taught to play the piano and be a good wife. ” She did not have an MBA or any work experience, but she knew about the business better than other company managers. Salvatore always discussed his plans and problems at work, so Wanda was aware of everything from the size of Wallis Simpson's legs to the subtleties of logistics in wartime.
One of her first decisions was the appointment of her 19-year-old daughter Fiamma as chief designer. The girl inherited talent from her father and learned to sew shoes under his guidance. She clearly understood that shoes alone weren’t enough: women want to wear Ferragamo handbags, silk scarves and dresses. Later, other children joined the family business.
At the helm of the company, Wanda remained until her death in 2018. She was 96 years old when she died of cancer. Today, the company is run by Ferruccio Ferragamo's son, preserving the Made in Italy tradition and the memory of his parents.
See also: Love in photographs: Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lilya Brik