James Ferragamo tells Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan about his family’s legacy and why expression and creativity are life’s luxuries
HIS is a revered surname in the luxury world.
As more and more businesses are sold to cash-rich conglomerates, surnames became more of a symbol and less of a legacy associated with a certain brand.
Not so for Salvatore Ferragamo’s grandson James, who is the women’s leather product director for the Salvatore Ferragamo Group.
Born in Florence in 1971 and with a degree in marketing and international business from the Stern Business School in New York, he is also responsible for production.
Lineage, heritage and legacy mean a lot to this dashing businessman.
“My relatives and I have our own styles and personalities, and we express them freely, both in our work and in life.
But at the same time, we are bound to our family and brand traditions that form our inherited legacy — a combination of principles dictated by my grandfather that we carefully follow and nurture,” he says.
Those principles remain today, he adds, as a source of inspiration, providing the basis for the family business as well as their lives.
Salvatore started his business in America almost 100 years ago and went on to become a famous shoemaker to the stars.
He understood then the prestige of Italian craftsmanship and went home to Italy in 1927 to establish his production there.
“We are proud of this legacy and we consider it a veritable patrimony.
It is undeniable that without it, Ferragamo would not have been able to grow and establish itself as one of the leading Italian luxury brands and an example of successful entrepreneurship,” says James, adding that living with his grandfather’s heritage means having the courage and capacity to act with self-assurance and coherence.
“I have a passion for my work.
I take pride in belonging to the world of Ferragamo, and I have a sensibility towards individuals and a respect for their needs,” he says.
He joined the Salvatore Ferragamo Group in 1988 in the women’s shoe division, where he oversaw several key product developments.
He was made general merchandising manager in 2000 and women’s leather product director in 2004.
He was appointed women’s shoe director in 2008.
James has launched some of the brand’s most iconic bags.
He also managed Red Carpet, the first made-to-order line of women’s evening and cocktail shoes.
Last year, he oversaw the L’Icona project, marking the 35th anniversary of the best-selling Vara shoe.
“The launch of the made-to-order Vara and Varina project was successful and it was welcomed both in American and Asian markets.”
Salvatore’s aim was to create a shoe that “always fits perfectly”, says James.
“Our effort is to continue this technological expedient, introduced and tested by him to maintain that goal, renewing and updating according to new production techniques,” he says.
“We focus on technically and aesthetically innovative shoes, never forgetting that perfect fit on any type of feet.
Some shoes, such as Vara, have become icons of style and elegance.” Striking the right ba lance between style, innovative shape and perfect fit, is what makes the perfect pair of shoes.
James explains: “Each Ferragamo shoe interprets, with contemporary flair, the creative codes of our brand’s heritage: Innovation and experimentation with materials and colours, sophisticated crafting techniques, elegance and an exchange with the worlds of art, culture and film.
“The most seductive divas in the world have worn Ferragamo’s shoes, from Marilyn Monroe and Nicole Kidman to Angelina Jolie.
So branding Ferragamo shoes as ‘safe shoes’ is incorrect.” He understands a woman’s relationship with footwear.
“Any woman born and raised from the end of 1990s and the beginning of 2000, is fascinated by the atmosphere of New York — unrestrained, unruly, glamorous and irresistible,” he says.
“Look at Carrie Bradshaw, the iconic shoe lover in Sex & The City.
She was contemplating buying her own place and asked her friend Miranda: ‘Are you telling me that I’ve spent US$40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live? I will be reduced, literally, to live in my shoes’.
“That’s how important and magical, shoes are to women,” says James.
Love flats? Well, James is proheels.
He asks: “Why won’t some women wear heels? Because some shoes are too high and there is a risk of falling? As playwright Neil Simon put it perfectly, about not taking risk or a big chance, ‘Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out by today’.” VARA AND VARINA James says Vara shoes have enduring elements which make them one of the iconic designs by the house.
“Vara is an exceptionally balanced mix of all the main characteristics of the brand: It features contemporary design, beautiful colours and materials.
It is timelessly elegant and, of course, perfectly comfortable on any feet,” he says.
“The Vara shoe was designed by my aunt Marchesa Fiamma who, after my grandfather’s death, was responsible for the shoe collections.
The Vara design was an immediate success because of its characteristics which make it a bestseller until today.” This year, the company held a global launch for the made-to-order Vara and Varina (ballet flats version of the Vara) and customers can pick their favourite colours, ribbons, hardware and create their own combination not available in the stores.
With every collection, the company adds new colours and materials and the wait is anywhere between eight and 10 weeks as each pair is crafted at the production facility in Florence.
“A made-to-measure accessory is a statement of luxury and exclusivity, but I don’t think that its allure and attraction should be limited to that,” says James.
“Rather, it should be found in our own need and pleasure of expressing our creativity and taste.
The possibility of expressing ourselves through something as personal as a pair of shoes...that is the real allure.”
MADE SPECIFICALLY FOR YOU
THE launch of the made-to-order Vara and Varina in Malaysia will be held this evening at the Salvatore Ferragamo store in Suria KLCC.
The project celebrates and rediscovers Ferragamo’s most recognised shoe, Vara.
A mid-heel shoe with a grosgrain bow and gold plaque bearing the Ferragamo logo, Vara is one of the most recognised shoes by the Italian label.
For 35 years since it was introduced in 1978, Vara has been worn by style setters around the globe and has become a fashion icon.
Varina, a ballet flat based on Vara, was launched in 2007 and quickly garnered a cult following amongst Hollywood’s A list and fashion tastemakers.
Details at ferragamo.com or instagram.com/Ferragamo