Ferragamo takes a sexy step on the red carpet
LIVIN' & LOVIN' - Tetta Matera () - December 28, 2011 - 12:00am

Many fashion brands aspire to luxury but no brand defines luxury more than Salvatore Ferragamo does; innovation, creativity, respect for its heritage, dedication to quality and 100-percent Italian craftsmanship are the cornerstones of the brand’s luxury. This unique combination has earned Ferragamo a coveted spot in the highly competitive luxury brand market for the long term and secured its rightful position in the multibillion-dollar fashion industry.

Salvatore Ferragamo is a brand steeped in history and built on the talent, vision and passion of the man from whom the brand takes its name. Born in Bonito, Italy, in 1898, Salvatore Ferragamo found his calling at the age of nine when he made his first pairs of shoes for his sisters’ confirmation because his parents could not afford to buy the shoes. The 11th of 14 siblings, Salvatore wasted no time and went to Napoli to study shoemaking; he came back to Bonito at the age of 13 and opened his first shoe business in his parents’ home.

Head honcho: Paul Cadman, regional chief executive officer for Salvatore Ferragamo-Asia Pacific

In 1914 he went to Boston and joined his brother to work at a cowboy boot factory. Uninspired by the poor-quality products they were producing at the factory, he left for California and landed in Hollywood before settling in Santa Barbara. There he began making shoes and boots for the film industry with the traditional techniques he learned from Napoli. Before long he began taking orders directly from movie stars for made-to-order shoes. 

In 1923, he moved back to Hollywood and set up the Hollywood Boot Shop, where he became the favorite of silver-screen stars like Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. He created some of the most legendary footwear in the movie industry like Dorothy’s Ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz and Marilyn Monroe’s iconic stilettos in The Seven Year Itch.

Ferragamo was the first shoe designer to promote the idea of “fashion, beauty and comfort.” To further hone his talents and improve his line of made-to-order shoes, he enrolled at the University of Southern California to “learn about the 26 bones that make up the human foot.” He made wooden molds specific to his clients’ feet and incorporated his newfound knowledge in every pair of shoes he created. The word was, he required at least five fittings from his clients before he became satisfied with the shoes he handmade.

In 1927, when his production in the US could no longer accommodate the demand for his made-to-order shoes, he moved his operations to Florence, Italy. From there he oversaw his footwear business and created some of fashion’s all-time groundbreaking designs — the cork-sole wedge, the first sandals for women and the invisible shoes. He took inspiration from art and architecture and infused them in his bold, fashion-forward shoe designs.

Ferragamo is also responsible for some of the shoemaking technology still used today — the shell-shape soles, the cage heel, the steel arch support system and the metal interior heel that gave rise to the stiletto in 1950. Ferragamo also pioneered the use of materials like wood, metal, wire, felt, raffia, even gold in shoes. From 350 pairs of handmade shoes every day, he moved the brand towards producing thousands of pairs of shoes made with modern, automated and mechanical technology.

From its historical footwear product, Ferragamo expanded the business to create, produce and sell equally high-quality clothing, leather goods, accessories, silk products and perfumes for men and women and licensed-out products like eyewear and watches. Up until his death in 1960, Ferragamo carried 300 patents; his wife Wanda and their children took over the business with other family members joining them in the succeeding years to oversee the further growth of the brand. Today, Salvatore Ferragamo is a publicly listed company (75 percent is still owned by the Ferragamo family) and a global fashion empire with a legacy permanently etched in fashion history.

The Red Carpet Project

Have you ever looked at photos of Hollywood A-listers in their red-carpet best and said to yourself, “I love those shoes, I want to have them”? At the Salvatore Ferragamo boutiques, you can order some of the exquisite, exclusive shoes worn by the likes of Angelina Jolie, Eva Mendes, Jennifer Lopez, Maggie Q and Sarah Jessica Parker under the Red Carpet Project.

The recently launched project pays homage to Salvatore Ferragamo’s humble beginnings as a shoemaker in the US and is the contemporary revival of his made-to-order shoe business in Hollywood that catapulted him to “Shoemaker to the Stars” status. Imbibing Mr. Ferragamo’s belief in making every woman feel like a “diva,” the Red Carpet Project allows every woman to have an atelier experience in the boutique.

The Red Carpet Project showcases four elegant evening-shoe designs perfect for cocktails and special occasions: the Fioretta, Fiordalisa, Fragrance and Dalila in 23 gorgeous shades of satin. The boutique’s expertly trained staff will provide assistance, from selecting the design to having initials monogrammed on the arch of the shoes for a more personalized touch; the orders are then sent to Italy where the shoes are handcrafted. The shoes take six weeks from the time order is placed to the delivery of shoes to the client; prices range from P35,500 to P44,500. All four designs are absolutely stunning, I must say, and truly red carpet-worthy.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Paul Cadman, Ferragamo’s regional chief executive officer for Asia Pacific during a one-on-one interview prior to the launch of the Red Carpet Project at the swanky Ferragamo boutique in Greenbelt 4. Mr. Cadman, an Englishman with 25 years of experience in the luxury retail business under his belt (10 of those years working in Asia) spoke about the project and the brand’s prospects for 2012.

THE PHILIPPINE STAR: How did the idea of the “Red Carpet” made-to-order shoe collection come about?

PAUL CADMAN: Salvatore Ferragamo himself used to travel to Hollywood to personally fit the movie actresses for their shoes even after he left the United States; he then had the shoes handcrafted in Italy and sent back to the United States.  We wanted to revive that and extend the same exclusive service to the women of today. Projects like this, we believe, add value to our brand as well.

How often will the styles from the Red Carpet Project be changed?

Well, it depends. Of course we will retain the designs that are popular with the clients but hopefully we can introduce new styles every spring/summer and fall/winter season.

Why use satin when the Salvatore Ferragamo brand is known for its leather shoes?

Because satin is a material best suited for special evening occasions. We already have a large market for our leather shoes and we saw an opportunity to create a new, successful line of shoes with the Red Carpet Project.   

How do you translate the original idea of Salvatore Ferragamo’s made-to-order shoes today?

All our sales personnel undergo extensive training rooted in the Ferragamo heritage of beautifully crafted Italian products; that is our DNA. By providing them with the expertise, they are able to provide service that matches the quality of our made-to-order shoes. Our creative director is Italian; so are our shoemakers and they have kept Mr. Ferragamo’s legacy alive, which in turn they pass on to our staff.

Italian luxe: Salvatore Ferragamo reopens its flagship store in the Philippines at the ground floor of Greenbelt 4, Ayala Center, Makati City.

Is this made-to-order shoe concept only for women? What about the men?

The Red Carpet Project is for women but we have a similar concept for men called the Special Edition Tramezza shoes, which will be available in Manila in 2012.

How much of the yearly global sales of Salvatore Ferragamo can be attributed to shoes?

As of end of the third quarter of 2011, footwear accounted for 34.2 percent of our global sales followed by handbags and leather accessories at 28.5 percent.

Are all Ferragamo products made 100 percent in Italy?

Yes, all our products are made 100 percent in Italy and that’s what sets us apart from other luxury brands. While we do not manufacture all of our products in-house, all our suppliers are located in Italy; we have very good relations with them and they adhere to strict Ferragamo standards.

Other luxury brands have developed second-tier, less-expensive lines. Why hasn’t Salvatore Ferragamo followed the same route?

We believe in the idea of global products that carry global branding under a Mono brand; we do not want any misinterpretation of our brand. Also, our market is comprised of clients with high disposable income so they are more concerned about the quality of our products, not the price. We appeal to a wide range of customers — those who are loyal and have been buying our products for many years and those who are 25 years old and up who are looking for beautifully designed, exquisitely crafted quality products, made 100 percent in Italy.

Counterfeiting is not a major concern of the Salvatore Ferragamo brand because we are not a “logo” brand nor a brand with a young, trendy appeal, something that is common to products that are often and easily faked. Besides, our company has very strong trademark policies in place that make it difficult for entities to copy our products.

You head the Asia-Pacific region, the only place in the world that seems to enjoy economic growth. How much of Salvatore Ferragamo’s global sales in 2011 came from the region?

Asia-Pacific accounts for 36 percent of Salvatore Ferragamo’s global sales from January to September 2011.

(According to the company’s latest financial reports, Asia-Pacific booked more than 248 million euros of the 701 million-euro global sales at Salvatore Ferragamo for that period.)

The Euro zone has debt problems and the United States has a lackluster economy. What are the challenges the brand faces in the Asia-Pacific region?

Bespoke, anyone? The Special Edition Tramezza line of ultra-luxurious, hand-stitched, made-to-order men’s shoes are soon to make an appearance in Manila.

Counterfeiting is a big problem in the luxury fashion industry. Is that a big concern at Salvatore Ferragamo?

The biggest challenge we foresee is how we will be able to keep up with the demand for our products given our forecast for the region for 2012. Our China market alone grew by 50 percent from January to September of 2011 as compared to the same period in 2010.  Growth is what we anticipate for the region with our expansion plans, especially in China.

What makes the Asia-Pacific region different from other markets where the Ferragamo brand has a presence?

For example, unlike in North America where you serve a “one-country market,” the Asia-Pacific region is comprised of multi-cultures with multi-languages, a diverse market with a variety of preferences. Our aim is to be able to identify every market’s preference and provide products that will satisfy them at all times.

At a time when many companies, including those that are fashion in nature, are revising their forecasts downwards, what type of company do you think will prevail in the long haul?

Companies that are well-managed will not only survive but will succeed; Salvatore Ferragamo is that kind of company.  Even in Japan where the country suffered a tremendous economic blow due to the Fukushima disaster, Salvatore Ferragamo managed a 1.7 percent increase in sales as of the third quarter of 2011. We are an agile, flexible and always-prepared organization; we control our costs effectively and we are always in tune with the changing aspects of the business. These combined with our business ethos of focusing on providing top-quality products, with the “Made in Italy” image, meeting the expectations and the demands of our global customers, is key to our longstanding success.

During the launch I spied Manila’s fashionable ladies making a beeline for the Red Carpet shoes, with the Fioretta, the very sexy, closed-toe stiletto design, proving to be a runaway favorite. If this is any sign of things to come, the future definitely looks bright for the Salvatore Ferragamo brand.

* * *

In the Philippines, Salvatore Ferragamo is exclusively distributed by Store Specialists, Inc (SSI) and is located at Greenbelt 4, Power Plant Mall, Rustan’s Tower, Rustan’s Makati, Alabang Town Center, Newport Mall and Rustan’s Ayala-Cebu.

The Red Carpet Project is exclusively available at the Salvatore Ferragamo Greenbelt 4 boutique. For information, call 757-6270.

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