Before Salvatore Ferragamo became a brand beloved by stars like Demi Moore, Freida Pinto and Armie Hammer — all of whom attended the chic reopening soiree for the flagship L.A. location on Rodeo Drive Wednesday night — it was the far-off vision of an Italian shoemaker’s.
“(Salvatore Ferragamo) left Italy when he was very young, from a very small village in the south of Italy, to achieve a dream, and Hollywood was his dream,” shared creative designer Massimiliano Giornetti about the original founder, who was born in 1898 and found his calling at age nine, when designing shoes for his sisters’ confirmations. Ferragamo boldly set out for Southern California in 1914, and began custom-designing footwear for movies like “The Ten Commandments” and “Some Like It Hot.”
“He was doing very humble work at the beginning, but his talent was so transparent and so evident that everybody in Hollywood was so in love with the creativity of Salvatore Ferragamo, and gave him the chance and possibility to explode,” Giornetti explained. The coveted designer who became known as “shoemaker to the stars” soon opened a retail store for made-to-measure shoes in Hollywood (the Hollywood Boot Shop, in 1923), and over the years came to be adored by icons like Marilyn Monroe, Eva Peron, Katharine Hepburn and Madonna.
“In a way, William (Sofield) redesigning the store is really like redesigning the story of Salvatore Ferragamo: the heritage, the glory, the glamour of Hollywood during the ’30s,” Giornetti said, and renowned architect William Sofield — who was enlisted to re-imagine the Rodeo Drive space following the store’s seven-month relocation to Wilshire Boulevard — agreed.
“I love that period in history where you have the original Hollywood glamour, where there’s both economy and glamour at the same time, so I tried to go back to that original spirit,” noted Sofield, who, after extensive research in Florence, divided the 10,000-square-foot ground level into separate mirror-lined sections housing different products (bags, shoes, ready-to-wear). “I really tried to create a very intimate environment. It’s a series of rooms. They’re very sensitive to celebrities having their privacy, so there are rooms that can be closed off and become more private, fitting rooms that nobody knows about, and can be discreet and elegant at the same time,” he said.
“Luxury is about exclusivity,” echoed Giornetti. It was likewise important to the two that the space feel residential and welcoming. “It’s, in a way, like hosting somebody in a private residence. I like very much the coziness, the spirit of hospitality that’s so typically Italian in this store,” said Giornetti of the 1930s art deco-themed digs. Silver travertine, Louvre limestone and Sarrancolin marble line the interior, and elements of the brand’s DNA (like cork wedge, invisible sandal and the mixing of unusual materials, such as raffia and straw) are seen in cork side tables, brick red leather upholstered club chairs and glass rod floor lamps.
Also featured prominently is the fashion — which reflects Giornetti’s penchant for deconstructing the figure, using patchwork colors (like blacks, reds and deep greens) and recomposing fabrics, all while embodying “the sense of Hollywood glamour and sophistication and beauty that is the essence of this brand.” He even designed two pieces (a black-and-gold envelop bag and suede calfskin shoes) that will be exclusive to the Beverly Hills boutique. And clearly, he knows his fan base.
“It’s a brand that has such beautiful, rich textures and originality, but at the same time is so classic and timeless and pairs so well with everything,” said “Mad Men’s” Kiernan Shipka, who’s soon taking off for the Toronto Film Festival. “It’s amazing to go formal with Ferragamo, and it’s also amazing to wear their fabulous shoes with a pair of jeans. It’s so versatile and so classy, I love it.”
“I’ve had a wonderful relationship with them for many years,” said Camilla Belle, who particularly loved her shoes (“they’re funky, they’re actually comfortable, they’re sexy but kind of rocker-cool”), in addition to many other things about the Italian fashion house. “The fact that it’s still a family business … and it’s still family run. And the fact that I went to a museum a few years ago and you see all these shoes that were made for these icons that today are still important. There’s a history to it.”
What’s in store for the brand, that famously coined the wedge and cage heel, moving forward? “The future is really linking the heritage with a younger and fresher approach,” said Giornetti — and from the flood of next-generation Hollywood tastemakers (like Hopper Penn, Tallulah and Scout Willis, Sasha Spielberg, Gia Coppola and Ireland Baldwin) present at the flashy cocktail bash and private al fresco dinner catered by Lucques at the Eric Buterbaugh Florals store later on, his mission seems on course.
A showcase of Ferragamo’s original cinematic shoe designs (on loan from the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo) calls out the heritage at the store, and a new digital platform (100 Years 100 Days) will further highlight Ferragamo’s historic relationship with Hollywood, that’s 100 years and counting. “Ferragamo has always been very close to Hollywood celebrities and always supported the younger talent, and to me this is extremely important,” said Giornetti, “but also (important is) sharing ideas, aesthetic vision and values.”
(Pictured: Tallulah Willis, creative director Massimiliano Giornetti, Demi Moore and Scout Willis at the newly unveiled Ferragamo boutique)