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Leonardo Ferragamo: Angels Need to Put on His Crimson Footwear

In Italy, the family is every- thing. Most of the nation’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 luxury items empire, says “the household is the model”, you understand he means it.

Not like “Model Beckham”, assiduously cultivated by the footballer David and his movie star wife, Victoria, this is no Johnny-come-lately advertising wheeze. Salvatore Ferragamo started one of many world’s grandest luxury items businesses when he opened his first shoe store in Florence in 1927. Certainly one of his most celebrated pairs of sneakers were the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. He was also responsible for the steel-strengthened stiletto tassel sneaker ferragamo brown heels made well-known by Marilyn Monroe.

By the 1950s, Salvatore Ferragamo was the shoe of alternative for stars akin to Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Greta Garbo. All through, he insisted that every one the company’s merchandise should solely be made in Italy to verify high quality was not compromised.

Leonardo, who has worked in the corporate all his life, says of his father: “He was a genius, a particular individual. But I by no means got to know him nicely as I was seven when he died.”

When Salvatore passed away aged sixty two in 1960, his wife, Wanda, took over the operating of the enterprise. With the help of her six children, it has since expanded into a world concern, additionally selling luxury accessories reminiscent of designer glasses, perfume, belts and scarves. Manufacturing has grown from 6,500 pairs of footwear a 12 months when Salvatore died to round 10,000 a day now. In 2005 the corporate made a revenue of virtually $50m (£25m) on sales of $718m. Asia now represents half its revenues.

Leonardo learnt the artwork of shoemaking in the family business and went on to head the menswear division as well as spearheading the drive into Asia. He can also be accountable 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 first time in its 80-yr history, someone from exterior the family was introduced in to run the enterprise. Michele Norsa, formerly the chief govt of the rival Italian group Valentino, changed Wanda, now aged eighty five, who has change into chairman as she cuts down her workload and prepares to go on the reins.

And in September, the company introduced its intention to float on the stock market, although the household will retain a majority 52 per cent shareholding.

The appointment of Mr Norsa, it is hoped, will head off the infighting that tassel sneaker ferragamo brown has befallen different great household-run Italian businesses, akin to Gucci and Pucci, when their patriarchs died and control handed to their children.

“We are a large family – there are 65 kids and grandchildren. It can be laborious to pick a brand new boss,” says Leonardo, who is reported to have been answerable for placing forward the flotation plans to the family. “We need to modernise the corporate and get it prepared for the subsequent generation.”

In interviews, Wanda has at all times strongly rejected the possibility of promoting the business, saying just lately she was “nearly offended” by the thought. But she has conceded that her youngsters, between whom possession of the company is divided, might feel differently. By going public, the second era of Ferragamos will be able to promote their shares in the event that they want.

It is difficult to tell whether Leonardo has discovered it tough having an outsider operating the household business. “It’s a part of the transition,” he comments. “We share the same values.”

He additionally insists that having to reply to outside shareholders will not be a problem. “They can be demanding. But that can be a very good factor.”

Leonardo says that despite the flotation plans, Salvatore Ferragamo will remain true to its ideas and the household will nonetheless be closely involved even after it lists in round two years’ time.

The dynasty is considered one of the corporate’s best property, he says. “A company owned by the family can transfer a degree of security and integrity. It offers a guarantee of continuity. We don’t just rely on one man who comes and goes. The family is the model.”

Central to the Salvatore Ferragamo model is the “Made in Italy” stamp discovered on its merchandise, denoting high quality and good workmanship. For example, the company’s formal Tramezza footwear are hand-made in a manufacturing facility near Florence by half a dozen workers. However, manufacturing prices are a lot greater than those of its competitors, a lot of which have shifted operations to Asia. Leonardo’s brother, Ferrucio, as soon as complained in an interview that a few of the corporate’s workers worked fewer than eight hours every day and have been “spoiled”. They needed, he hinted, to adapt to the worldwide financial system.

Leonardo does not promise that each one the corporate’s items might be made in Italy indefinitely: “Now we have to keep our eyes open. Issues change on this planet. There are different opportunities around the world. We have now an open angle to it.”

Other than shoes, Leonardo’s great love is crusing, a passion he has been able to take pleasure in some style. In 1998, he bought Nautor, which makes the well-known Swan yachts, having sailed its boats for years as an enthusiast. In his Italian lilt, he recounts the “beautiful story” of how he first came to be concerned with the corporate, which has established such racing events as the Swan Regatta and the Swan Cup, and likewise scooped the trophy in 1973 for the primary Whitbread Spherical the World Race.

“I went to visit the factory. A brand 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 particular.”

Leonardo appreciates good craftsmanship, whether in a shoe or a ship. Like Salvatore Ferragamo, Nautor focuses on quality not amount, making just forty yachts a 12 months, which vary in price from €400,000 (£250,000) to a number of million. “[Footwear and boats] are both types of transportation,” he adds with out a trace of irony, warming to his theme. “The Swan yacht is about branding and high quality. Sneakers aren’t nearly aesthetics but what’s inside them. It’s all concerning the identification of the product.”

Born 23 July 1953.

Schooling College of Imede, Lausanne, Switzerland – business administration diploma; Columbia College, New York – administration and finance diploma.

Profession at Salvatore Ferragamo
1973-75: assistant to director, leather-based division.

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

1987-94: industrial director, Europe/Asia.
1994-2000: chief government, Europe/South America/Asia.

2000 to now: chief government of the holding firm.
Other Interests

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