SELF-MADE WOMEN: Wanda Miletti Ferragamo was a self-made woman with an entrepreneurial bent and played a pivotal role in developing Salvatore Ferragamo group after the death of her husband in 1960 at age 62, which left her a widow with six children: Fiamma, Giovanna, Fulvia, Ferruccio, Massimo and Leonardo.
Marking the centenary of her birth, the Salvatore Ferragamo company, together with the namesake foundation and Musée Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence, are mounting an exhibition to bow on May 19 titled “Donne in Equilibrio,” or “Women in Balance,” aimed at documenting and celebrating women who, like Ferragamo herself, played a role in advancing the economy in the post-World War II Italian landscape.
The matriarch of the Ferragamo family, and honorary president of the company since 2006, died in 2018 aged 96.
“My mother was wonderful. There was a large age difference between my father and my mother. He adored her, spoiled her. But because of that, he kept her like a jewel. He always told good stories, good things happening at work, never the more difficult ones,” said Leonardo Ferragamo, her son and non-executive chairman of the company since last April. “But when my father died, she had never worked before. She knew a lot about the business and was so proud of what he’d done; they had a very intimate connection, and it must have been awful to find herself alone. My youngest brother, Massimo, was only two years old when my father died. After thinking what to do, she decided she would try and go on. She did with such determination, intuition and capacity that no one would believe she hadn’t been trained for it.”
Revealing the exhibition, the company provided a quote that the late Ferragamo matriarch said before her death: “When I started working, in Italy there were not many women leading companies. Today is different, and I’m happy about it, even if I’m aware of what this means. All the women work, but some do their jobs out of home.
“Housewives have to do accounting like bookkeepers, decorate [their homes] like interior designers, cook like a chef and manage the house like CEOs, all the while being mothers and wives. Women can do it all, regardless of what and where our office is,” she added.