By  on December 22, 2006

FLORENCE — Approaching its 80th anniversary, Salvatore Ferragamo unveiled its museum here and introduced a new concept store dedicated to numbered reproductions of archival shoes and handbags.

"These are truly collectors' pieces, made the exact same way they were made when my father was alive," said Ferruccio Ferragamo, chairman of Salvatore Ferragamo Italia. "I believe this is the right project at the right moment, now that the company is evolving [gearing up for a public listing]. This is a way to communicate outside and to our designers at the same time; to show them our roots and creativity."

The Ferragamos — Wanda, Ferruccio, Leonardo and Giovanna — this month hosted a tour of the museum and store and a lunch with the company's chief executive officer, Michele Norsa.

The limited-edition collection, branded Ferragamo's Creations, with an original label designed in 1927 by futurist artist Lucio Venna, retails at 800 to 1,800 euros, or $1,000 to $2,400 at the current exchange rate. Pieces include a silk velvet platform sandal designed for Ava Gardner, and the 11 cm.-heel pump Marilyn Monroe wore in "Some Like It Hot." All items are made entirely by hand, using original constructions, lasts and hides. In addition to the shoes, there are reproductions of four handbags, such as the top-handle crocodile bag with the iconic Gancino ornament and a small bag with a chain that can be used as a belt.

"This can certainly become a business," Norsa said. "We want to reposition the brand in a higher, more exclusive range of the market, and these items help recuperate that exclusivity."

The items are displayed in an airy and luminous store featuring ornately framed mirrors that belonged to Wanda Ferragamo, Thirties Gio Ponti glass tables and patchwork armchairs — a reference to Salvatore Ferragamo's patchwork shoes. The colors of the store range from cream and beige to cocoa, muted gold and bronze. "We wanted a modern feel for a reproduction of my father's atelier," Ferruccio Ferragamo said.

Norsa said the company plans to reproduce this store in flagships around the world, such as in New York and Tokyo.

The store, located on the ground floor of Palazzo Spini Feroni, the company's medieval-style headquarters here, is almost an extension of the museum, next to the Ferragamo boutique, with a separate entrance. After 11 years, the museum moved from the second floor of the palazzo to the vaulted rooms in its basement, doubling its size to 5,400 square feet.Visitors will pay an entrance fee of 5 euros, or $6.60, which will go toward a scholarship at Polimoda, the city's main fashion school.

"This space is perfect for the public — as we've seen with past events we held here [such as the men's runway shows] — and this new structure is flexible, so that things can be moved around to make space for temporary exhibitions," said Stefania Ricci, curator of the museum.

Although the museum owns 40,000 shoes, only 200 can be displayed at a time. The opening exhibition, "Creativity in Colour," focuses on Ferragamo's passion for strong hues. "At a time in the Twenties and Thirties when white and brown were the colors used by shoemakers, he used yellow, blue, multicolored shoes because he wanted shoes to be more than an accessory," Ricci said. Ferragamo was inspired by art movements, from Futurism to Fauvism, and his Mediterranean background, mixed with his professional experience in California, which is influenced by Mexican culture, contributed to his use of strong colors. One section of the museum, all in cream, beige and cocoa hues, is dedicated to the history of the company and Ferragamo's connection to Hollywood and displays wooden lasts and photos of famous actors he shod; in another section, his Thirties workshop is reproduced.

A virtual visit to the museum is available at

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