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Leonardo Ferragamo: Angels Need to Put on His Purple Shoes

In Italy, the household is every- factor. Most of the country’s largest firms are nonetheless owned and run by dynasties, and the distinction between the boardroom table and the kitchen table is usually blurred. So when Leonardo Ferragamo, son of the late Salvatore Ferragamo who based the eponymous luxurious goods empire, says “the family is the model”, you already know he means it.

In contrast to “Model Beckham”, assiduously cultivated by the footballer David and his superstar wife, Victoria, this isn’t any Johnny-come-these days advertising wheeze. Salvatore Ferragamo started one of many world’s grandest luxury items businesses when he opened his first shoe shop in Florence in 1927. One in every of his most celebrated pairs of footwear have been the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland within the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. He was additionally accountable for the metallic-reinforced stiletto heels made famous by Marilyn Monroe.

By the 1950s, Salvatore Ferragamo was the shoe of selection for stars corresponding to Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Greta Garbo. Throughout, he insisted that each one the corporate’s merchandise should only be made in Italy to ensure quality was not compromised.

Leonardo, who has worked in the corporate all his life, says of his father: “He was a genius, a particular person. However I never acquired to know him well as I used to be seven when he died.”

When Salvatore handed away aged 62 in 1960, his wife, Wanda, took over the operating of the business. With the assistance of her six children, it has since expanded into a world concern, additionally promoting luxury equipment equivalent to designer glasses, perfume, belts and scarves. Production has grown from 6,500 pairs of sneakers a yr when Salvatore died to around 10,000 a day now. In 2005 the company made a profit of almost $50m (£25m) on gross sales of $718m. Asia now represents half its revenues.

Leonardo learnt the art of shoemaking within the family enterprise and went on to head the menswear division in addition to spearheading the drive into Asia. He can also be liable for the family’s property investments and is the chairman of the yachting group Nautor, more of which later.

However Salvatore Ferragamo is about to vary. Final 12 months, for the primary time in its eighty-year historical past, somebody from outside the family was brought in to run the business. Michele Norsa, formerly the chief executive of the rival Italian group Valentino, replaced Wanda, now aged 85, who has develop into chairman as she cuts down her workload and prepares to cross on the reins.

And in September, the company announced its intention to float on the stock market, though the household will retain a majority fifty two per cent shareholding.

The appointment of Mr Norsa, ferragamo store virginia it’s hoped, will head off the infighting that has befallen different nice household-run Italian companies, similar to Gucci and Pucci, when their patriarchs died and management handed to their children.

“We are a large family – there are 65 children and grandchildren. It can be arduous to pick a new boss,” says Leonardo, who is reported to have been liable for placing forward the flotation plans to the household. “We need to modernise the company and get it prepared for the following technology.”

In interviews, Wanda has all the time strongly rejected the potential for promoting the enterprise, saying not too long ago she was “almost offended” by the thought. However she has conceded that her children, between whom ownership of the company is divided, may feel otherwise. By going public, the second era of Ferragamos will be able to sell their shares if they wish.

It is tough to inform whether Leonardo has discovered it tough having an outsider working the household enterprise. “It’s a part of the transition,” he feedback. “We share the identical values.”

He also insists that having to answer to outdoors shareholders will not be an issue. “They can be demanding. However that can be a good thing.”

Leonardo says that regardless of the flotation plans, Salvatore Ferragamo will remain true to its ideas and the household will nonetheless be heavily concerned even after it lists in around two years’ time.

The dynasty is one in all the company’s biggest belongings, he says. “An organization owned by the family can switch a stage of security and integrity. It gives a guarantee of continuity. We don’t simply rely on one man who comes and goes. The household is the brand.”

Central to the Salvatore Ferragamo brand is the “Made in Italy” stamp discovered on its products, denoting top quality and good workmanship. For example, the corporate’s formal Tramezza shoes are hand-made in a manufacturing facility near Florence by half a dozen staff. Nevertheless, manufacturing prices are much higher than these of its opponents, a lot of which have shifted operations Salvatore_Po to Asia. Leonardo’s brother, Ferrucio, once complained in an interview that a few of the company’s employees worked fewer than eight hours each day and have been “spoiled”. They needed, he hinted, to adapt to the global economy.

Leonardo does not promise that every one the company’s items can be made in Italy indefinitely: “We have to keep our eyes open. Things change on the planet. There are other opportunities world wide. We’ve got an open perspective to it.”

Other than footwear, Leonardo’s nice love is crusing, a passion he has been able to bask in some type. In 1998, he bought Nautor, which makes the famous Swan yachts, having sailed its boats for years as an enthusiast. In his Italian lilt, he recounts the “stunning story” of how he first came to be concerned with the corporate, which has established such racing occasions as the Swan Regatta and the Swan Cup, and likewise scooped the trophy in 1973 for the first Whitbread Spherical the World Race.

“I went to visit the manufacturing facility. A new world opened as much as me,” he recalls. “I used to be amazed at the standard and reliability of each worker, particularly the satisfaction they had been taking to make it special.”

Leonardo appreciates good craftsmanship, whether in a shoe or a boat. Like Salvatore Ferragamo, Nautor focuses on quality not quantity, making just 40 yachts a 12 months, which vary in price from €400,000 (£250,000) to a number of million. “[Footwear and boats] are each forms of transportation,” he provides and not using a hint of irony, warming to his theme. “The Swan yacht is about branding and high quality. Sneakers will not be nearly aesthetics however what’s inside them. It’s all in regards to the identity of the product.”

Born 23 July 1953.

Education University of Imede, Lausanne, Switzerland – enterprise administration degree; Columbia College, New York – administration and finance diploma.

Career at Salvatore Ferragamo
1973-seventy five: assistant to director, leather division.

1975-80: director, men’s footwear division.
1980-87: director, males’s division.

1987-94: commercial director, Europe/Asia.
1994-2000: chief govt, Europe/South America/Asia.

2000 to now: chief government of the holding company.
Different Pursuits


Bought Nautor in 1998, becoming chairman. Additionally chairman of the board at Camper & Nicholsons, the English yachting business bought by Nautor in 2001.

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