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'Normally I do not institute new fashions, there are a number of dress and shoe designers who struggle to be – different - for the sake of being different, meaning that they want to impose a startling new fashion line upon the woman. But, if designers must wait for their customers to become conscious of new styles who, then, determines fashion? The answer is: new fashion begin in the mind of the designer. He must not stifle all his ideas merely because the world is not yet ready for them. I have no season.” (from the autobiography of Salvatore Ferragamo, the shoemaker of dreams, London, 1957).

Salvatore Ferragamo was born on June 5, 1898 in Bonito, near Avellino, the eleventh of 14 children. After making his first pair of shoes at age nine for his sisters to wear at their confirmation, young Salvatore decided that he had found his calling. After studying shoemaking in Naples for a year, he opened a small shop in his parent's home.

In 1914, at 16, he emigrated to Boston, where one of his brothers worked in a cowboy boot factory.

After a brief stint at the factory, in 1919, Salvatore convinced his brothers to move to Santa Barbara, California. They opened a shop for repair and made-to-measure shoes, which soon caught the eyes of celebrities, leading Salvatore to a long period of creating footwear for movie stars. His designs ranged from the strikingly bizarre objet d'art to the traditionally elegant shoes. However, his thriving reputation only partially satisfied him: he could not fathom why his shoes pleased the eye yet hurt the foot, so he proceeded to study anatomy at the University of Southern California.

In 1923, with the success of his Santa Barbara shop, Salvatore Ferragamo opened the Hollywood Boot Shop in Hollywood. In 1925, fascinated by human anatomy, mathematics, and engineering, Salvatore Ferragamo wrote in his journal "The weight of the body falls on the arch of the foot like a plumb line."

He worked with many Hollywood stars in the 1920s, before returning to Italy in 1927 to found the eponymous company, settling in Florence, making unique handmade footwear. His scientific and creative approach to shoes spawned many innovations such as the Cork Wedge Heel, invented in 1938, and the Cage Heel. In 1947, Salvatore won the "Neiman Marcus Award", fashion's Oscar equivalent, with the Invisible Sandal. For the actress Audrey Hepburn, he created one of his most famous and iconic styles, a Suede Ballerina With Strap.

He expanded his operation during the 1950s to a workforce of around 700 expert artisans that produced 350 pairs of handmade shoes a day.

Salvatore Ferragamo died in 1960 at the age of 62. Film stars and celebrities continued to patronize his company, which has evolved into a luxury goods empire spanning the world. At his death his wife Wanda, and later their six children (Fiamma, Giovanna, Fulvia, Ferruccio, Massimo and Leonardo), ran the Ferragamo company. A museum dedicated to Ferragamo's life and work opened in the Palazzo Spini Feroni in 1995.