Best Foot Forward

Australia's sweeping outback might seem an unlikely place for a well-shod woman to find herself settling down.

Australia’s sweeping outback might seem an unlikely place for a well-shod woman to find herself settling down. But that’s precisely where Nicole Kidman, playing an aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch just before World War II, lands — wearing Salvatore Ferragamo, no less — in this November’s Baz Luhrmann-directed epic “Australia.”

This story first appeared in the June 16, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“When you think of the Thirties, one of the first names of shoes that comes to mind is Ferragamo,” says Catherine Martin, the film’s Oscar-winning costume designer, who last year approached the Italian house to collaborate on the shoe wardrobe for Kidman’s character, Lady Sarah Ashley. According to Martin, the house’s history of turning out bold-colored shoes in mixed fabrics inspired her own designs for Kidman, from a classic two-tone spectator pump to a raffia Mary Jane — “modeled on a patented Ferragamo design of the period,” says Martin — which Kidman wears with a pink cheongsam.

Of course, the late Salvatore Ferragamo himself was no stranger to the movie business. The cobbler got his start in 1920 designing shoes in Hollywood, and since then his company has worked on more than 50 films including “Some Like It Hot,” “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Evita” (the real-life Eva Peron was a devoted Ferragamo client). For Lady Sarah Ashley, “Catherine had a very specific vision,” says James Ferragamo, director of women’s shoes and leather goods. “Authenticity was extremely important….We sent Catherine reference books from our library, and images of some of the most famous clients.”

The resulting 18 shoe styles thus serve as something of a catalogue of the house’s history: The ribbed wedge detailing in one shoe derives from a style once worn by Katharine Hepburn, while the deep red of an evening sandal was, according to Ferragamo, already a house signature by the Forties. And, as he is quick to point out, even the fitting process was true to the label’s Old Hollywood traditions. Along with his best craftsman, Ferragamo met with Kidman in person, taking a cast of her foot, from which the house made a wooden last, or mold, to create the shoes. It is, naturally, yet another piece of history for the Ferragamo archives.