Leonardo Ferragamo: Angels Want to Put on His Crimson Shoes

Leonardo Ferragamo: Angels Want to Put on His Crimson Shoes

In Italy, the family is each- factor. Most of the nation’s greatest corporations are nonetheless owned and run by dynasties, and the distinction between the boardroom table and the kitchen desk is usually blurred. So when Leonardo Ferragamo, son of the late Salvatore Ferragamo who based the eponymous luxurious items empire, says “the household is the brand”, you know he means it.

In contrast to “Model Beckham”, assiduously cultivated by the footballer David and his celebrity wife, Victoria, this is not any Johnny-come-lately marketing wheeze. Salvatore Ferragamo began one of the world’s grandest luxury goods businesses when he opened his first shoe store in Florence in 1927. Certainly one of his most celebrated pairs of footwear had been the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. He was also answerable for the metal-bolstered stiletto heels made well-known by Marilyn Monroe.

By the 1950s, Salvatore Ferragamo was the shoe of selection for stars similar to Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Greta Garbo. All through, he insisted that every one the company’s merchandise should solely be made in Italy to ensure high quality was not compromised.

Leonardo, who has labored in the corporate all his life, says of his father: “He was a genius, a particular particular person. However I by no means bought to know him effectively as I was seven when he died.”

When Salvatore passed away aged sixty two in 1960, his spouse, Wanda, took over the running of the business. With the help of her six kids, it has since expanded into a world concern, also promoting luxury equipment such as designer glasses, perfume, belts and scarves. Manufacturing has grown from 6,500 pairs of sneakers a year when Salvatore died to around 10,000 a day now. In 2005 the corporate made a profit of nearly $50m (£25m) on sales of $718m. Asia now represents half its revenues.

Leonardo learnt the artwork of shoemaking in the family business and went on to head the menswear division in addition to spearheading the drive into Asia. He can also be accountable for the family’s property investments and is the chairman of the yachting group Nautor, more of which later.

But Salvatore Ferragamo is ready to vary. Final year, for the first time in its 80-12 months history, somebody from outdoors the family was introduced in to run the enterprise. Michele Norsa, formerly the chief government of the rival Italian group Valentino, replaced Wanda, now aged eighty five, who has grow to be chairman as she cuts down her workload and prepares to move on the reins.

And in September, the company introduced its intention to float on the inventory market, though the family will retain a majority fifty two per cent shareholding.

The appointment of Mr Norsa, it’s hoped, will head off the infighting that has befallen different nice household-run Italian companies, such as Gucci and Pucci, when their patriarchs died and management handed to their children.

“We are a large family – there are sixty five youngsters and grandchildren. It could be hard to pick a brand new boss,” says Leonardo, who’s reported to have been chargeable for placing ahead the flotation plans to the household. “We have to modernise the corporate and get it ready for the next generation.”

In interviews, Wanda has all the time strongly rejected the potential for promoting the enterprise, saying lately she was “nearly offended” by the thought. However she has conceded that her youngsters, between whom ownership of the company is divided, might really feel otherwise. By going public, the second technology of Ferragamos will have the ability to promote their shares if they wish.

It is difficult to inform whether or not Leonardo has discovered it troublesome having an outsider operating the family enterprise. “It’s a part of the transition,” he comments. “We share the same values.”

He additionally insists that having to answer to exterior shareholders is not going to be an issue. “They can be demanding. However that can be a great factor.”

Leonardo says that despite the flotation plans, Salvatore Ferragamo will stay true to its principles and the household will still be closely concerned even after it lists in around two years’ time.

The dynasty is considered one of the corporate’s biggest assets, he says. “A company owned by the family can transfer a level of security and integrity. It offers a guarantee of continuity. We don’t just depend on one man who comes and goes. The household is the brand.”

Central to the Salvatore Ferragamo brand is the “Made in Italy” stamp discovered on its products, denoting prime quality and good workmanship. For example, the corporate’s formal Tramezza footwear are hand-made in a factory near Florence by half a dozen workers. Nonetheless, manufacturing prices are a lot larger than these of its opponents, a lot of which have shifted operations to Asia. Leonardo’s brother, Ferrucio, as soon as complained in an interview that some of the corporate’s employees worked fewer than eight hours each day and have been “spoiled”. They wanted, he hinted, to adapt to the worldwide financial system.

Leonardo does not promise that each one the company’s items might be made in Italy indefinitely: “We now have to keep our eyes open. Things change on the planet. There are other opportunities all over the world. We have now an open attitude to it.”

Apart from footwear, Leonardo’s nice love is crusing, a ardour he has been able to bask in some type. In 1998, he purchased Nautor, which makes the well-known Swan yachts, having sailed its boats for years as an enthusiast. In his Italian lilt, he recounts the “beautiful story” of how he first got here to be involved with the corporate, which has established such racing occasions because the Swan Regatta and the Swan Cup, and also scooped the trophy in 1973 for the primary Whitbread Round the World Race.

“I went to go to the manufacturing unit. A brand new world opened up to me,” he recalls. “I was amazed at the quality and reliability of every worker, particularly the pride they were taking to make it special.”

Leonardo appreciates good craftsmanship, whether or not in a shoe or a ship. Like Salvatore Ferragamo, Nautor focuses on high quality not amount, making simply forty yachts a 12 months, which range in worth from 00,000 (£250,000) to a number of million. “[Sneakers and boats] are each forms of transportation,” he adds with no hint of irony, warming to his theme. “The Swan yacht is about branding and quality. Sneakers aren’t nearly aesthetics but what’s inside them. It is all concerning the identification of the product.”


Born 23 July 1953.

Education University of Imede, Lausanne, Switzerland – enterprise administration diploma; Columbia College, New York – administration and finance degree.

Profession at Salvatore Ferragamo

1973-75: assistant to director, leather-based division.

1975-80: director, men’s footwear division.

1980-87: director, men’s division.

1987-94: industrial director, Europe/Asia.

1994-2000: chief government, Europe/South America/Asia.

2000 to now: chief govt of the holding firm.

Different Pursuits

Ferragamo Leather Wallet in Pink

Purchased Nautor in 1998, turning into chairman. Additionally chairman of the board at Camper & Nicholsons, the English yachting business purchased by Nautor in 2001.

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