To understand Salvatore Ferragamo’s relationship with color, you only have to glimpse one of the Italian label’s most celebrated designs.
One of 14 children, Ferragamo was 17 years old when he decided to emigrate from native Italy to America, and after a brief stint with his brothers at a boot-making firm in Boston, Salvatore made his way to California, lured by the idea of idyllic weather and working with film stars. He opened the Hollywood Boot Shop in 1923, and soon enough was designing shoes for Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo and other icons of the cinema. A bona fide success, Ferragamo returned to Italy in 1927 to found his eponymous house, but his collaborations with Hollywood stars would only grow.
Indeed, the shoemaker’s close relationship with film legends ultimately led to one of his best-known designs: the Rainbow Sandal, created for Judy Garland in 1938. An instant classic, the Rainbow Sandal featured gold leather straps that topped a high platform crafted in a wide spectrum of brilliant colors. The height of the shoe was at the request of the diminutive Garland, who only stood 4-feet, 11-inches tall, while the colors were Ferragamo’s own tribute to the star, for whom he felt tremendous affection.
(Debuting a full year before 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, the shoe’s connection to one of Garland’s most famous roles is mere coincidence.)
Today the house continues to embrace an unabashed love of color throughout its collections, from footwear and handbags in brilliant hues to ready-to-wear pieces that likewise stand out for their bold tones. Some of the latest designs are crafted in a metallic shade known as “Footballer Blue,” while a “Scrub Green” is a vibrant emerald tone, with intricate processes needed to achieve these and other intense pigments. The shoemaker who dreamed of outfitting some of the world’s most famous women with stylish designs would surely appreciate the rainbow of color that remains at the heart of Ferragamo.