May 27, 2019, Florence, Italy
Thoughts Heading Into the Day
This is one of the few museums I am very excited to see. I had learned a little about Ferragamo and his renowned shoes prior to the study abroad, so I was anxious to see them firsthand since they are known to be the best fitting shoes and have the best quality workmanship in the world. My maternal great-grandfather was also a shoemaker from Italy so part of me also wanted to see this museum in hopes of some connection to his trade.
I loved this museum! I really enjoyed seeing the amazing shoes, fashions, and fabrics, and learning about Ferragamo himself.
The exhibits in the museum change yearly and feature displays from various designers and artists. Each exhibit has a theme that is important to the company. This year’s theme is “Sustainable Thinking.” I was not expecting to see sustainable shoes and fashions, so this was a pleasant surprise since recycling and upcycling are something I’m passionate about. I found everything about this museum inspiring, beginning with the straw sculpture that greeted you when you entered. The 80,000 plastic straw sculpture was done by an African artist who works with the polluting materials. I was amazed that plastic colored straws could make an interesting and attractive abstract piece of art.
Some of the sustainable fabrics we saw were made of out apples, oranges, pineapple, fishnet, and glass fiber, just to name a few. They were incredible to see. I was saddened to learn that in spite of how incredible looking these sustainable fabrics are they are still costly to produce. I learned that more research needs done in this area to make it affordable to produce, so we are not where we need to be with sustainable fashion yet.
My favorite fabrics in this museum, however, were the ones made out of recycled or upcycled materials. For example, the dress made out of leather straps, the coat made out of recycled yarns, cords and book waste, the purse made out of crocheted aluminum tabs, and the drapery made of out wire and bottle caps. This drapery looks like it’s made with gold from far away. The creations with recycled materials in this museum just blew my mind, but Ferragamo himself was just as interesting.
Ferragamo started making footwear when he was nine years old. He studied anatomy so he could create shoes that were better fitting and would support the foot properly. He made wooden prototypes of customers feet to get a perfect fit. Allof his shoes, whether or not they have heels or platforms, are said to be comfortable and are known for their quality workmanship.
He was the first manufacturer to bring Italian designer shoes to the forefront and he did this by learning American industrial methods during his 13 year stay in the U.S. and then going back to Italy to capitalized on the skilled Italian labor. He had many Hollywood customers while in the U.S., such as Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, and Marilyn Monroe and this made a name for his shoes and put his shoes in high demand. When he went back to Italy, he made his shoes a famous international brand.
Ferragamo’s sustainable shoes were my favorite part of the museum. I learned that some were made out of raffia, hemp, cellophane, cork, lace, nylon, and fish skin. They even had vegan shoes! Ferragamo was known for his innovative use of materials and bright colors. Thecellophane shoes really caught my eye because of their intricate detail and colorful patterns. I could not believe the beautiful designs you can get from weaving cellophane wrappers. Each shoe was unique in its design and material and I could have spent hours looking at the shoes alone. I also learned that Ferragamo was responsible for developing the wedge heel and platform sole in the 1930’s, which are also made from natural materials like wood and cork. That was surprising as I always thought they were a modern-day invention. My dream is to own a pair of Ferragamo shoes someday.
Takeaways From the Day
The coincidental juxtaposition of seeing David yesterday and Ferragamo’s museum today made me think about how both Michelangelo and Ferragamo became successful because they took the time to study human anatomy and their products reflected what they learned. It gives me a new perspective on our human body, one of the greatest gifts from God.
I find Ferragamo’s creativity with color and materials coupled with his business sense and quality workmanship of a shoe that looks and feels good quite remarkable. Being good at both business and craftsmanship is a rare combination.
I was so captivated and inspired with Ferragamo’s shoes that I was wishing I had signed up to do a creative work for this study abroad. I wanted to design a pair of shoes after seeing the Ferragamo museum. I have an antique wooden shoe form that would make this project quite doable, so I hope to try this sometime. Designing a shoe of my own would be a tribute to both Ferragamo and my great-grandfather who was also a shoemaker.