I don’t do a lot of retail shopping, purely because these days I prefer to make my clothes, and because there is so little that I need. Last weekend I found myself in Atlanta (great niece’s first communion; that was interesting) and staying across the street from a huge shopping mall. I decided to take my morning walk in the mall and do a bit of window shopping.
I love shop windows, and while the ones in malls are seldom on par with the great ones seen on the street in the major shopping cities, I’m always interested to see what it is that brands think is newsworthy enough to feature in their windows.
The shoes above were in the windows of Ferragamo, Italian maker of shoes that dates back to the 1920s. In 1928 Salvatore Ferragamo opened his shoe manufacturing business in Florence, Italy, after a time in Hollywood making shoes for the movies. The business struggled through the depression, but by 1938 was making enough money for Salvatore to relocate the business to a grand palace.
World War II was looming, and Ferragamo was looking to alternative materials from which to fashion his shoes. One idea was to build the soles and heels from cork. From 1938 through the 1940s Ferragamo made fanciful wedge heels and platforms with the lightweight cork as a base.
The above shoe is quite well-known. This particular example is in the Ferragamo Museum, which is still housed in the palace Salvatore bought in 1938. You can see why I was attracted to the new platforms in the window. It is a superb example of a company reaching back into their archives to bring out ideas and update them for modern taste.
On the Ferragamo website I found that there are several different styles in this line based on the 1938 cork sole and heel. I also spotted some sandals and espadrilles based on the famous Ferragamo Vara (the pump with the bow) which was first made in the 1970s and became the shoe of working women in the 1980s. And they still make the Audrey, a flat ballet type shoe that was designed for Audrey Hepburn in 1954.
Ferragamo is proof that companies don’t have to reinvent the wheel every four months. All they have to do is build on the greatness they have already created.
The book that contains the picture of the 1938 platforms is Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More, by Linda O’Keefe. I bought it while on a school field trip with my fifth graders to the Mint Museum in Charlotte in 1996, and I and the lucky little girls sitting near me on the bus ride home whiled away the trip with this great little book. It’s still a favorite, partly because it reminds me so much of the fun we had analyzing the designs and picking out our favorites.