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Leonardo Ferragamo: Angels Wish to Put on His Pink Footwear

In Italy, the household is every- thing. Many of the country’s biggest firms are still owned and run by dynasties, and the distinction between the boardroom table and the kitchen desk is commonly blurred. So when Leonardo Ferragamo, son of the late Salvatore Ferragamo who founded the eponymous luxury goods empire, says “the family is the model”, you realize he means it.

Not like “Brand Beckham”, assiduously cultivated by the footballer David and his celeb spouse, Victoria, this is not any Johnny-come-recently advertising wheeze. Salvatore Ferragamo began one of many world’s grandest luxury items companies when he opened his first shoe store in Florence in 1927. One of his most celebrated pairs of sneakers had been the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland within the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. He was also responsible for the metal-reinforced stiletto heels made famous by Marilyn Monroe.

By the 1950s, Salvatore Ferragamo was the shoe of choice for stars corresponding to Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Greta Garbo. Throughout, he insisted that each one the corporate’s products ought to solely be made in Italy to verify quality was not compromised.

Leonardo, who has worked in the company all his life, says of his father: “He was a genius, a special person. However I by no means received to know him effectively as I used to be seven when he died.”

When Salvatore passed away aged 62 in 1960, his spouse, Wanda, took over the operating of the enterprise. With the assistance of her six kids, it has since expanded into a global concern, also selling luxurious equipment such as designer glasses, perfume, belts and scarves. Production has grown from 6,500 pairs of shoes a year when Salvatore died to around 10,000 a day now. In 2005 the corporate made a revenue of nearly $50m (£25m) on gross sales of $718m. Asia now represents half its revenues.

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

But Salvatore Ferragamo is set to change. Final yr, for the primary time in its eighty-yr historical past, someone from outdoors the household was introduced in to run the business. Michele Norsa, previously the chief government of the rival Italian group Valentino, replaced Wanda, now aged eighty five, who has develop 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, though the household will retain a majority 52 per cent shareholding.

The appointment of Mr Norsa, it’s hoped, will head off the infighting that has befallen other great household-run Italian companies, comparable to Gucci and Pucci, when their patriarchs died and management passed to their youngsters.

“We are a big household – there are sixty five kids and grandchildren. It can be arduous to pick a new boss,” says Leonardo, who is reported to have been answerable for putting forward the flotation plans to the family. “We have to modernise the company and get it prepared for the subsequent technology.”

In interviews, Wanda has always strongly rejected the potential for promoting the enterprise, saying recently she was “nearly offended” by the thought. However she has conceded that her children, between whom possession of the corporate is divided, may feel otherwise. By going public, the second era of Ferragamos will be capable to sell their shares in the event that they wish.

It is tough to inform whether Leonardo has discovered it troublesome having an outsider running the household business. “It’s part of the transition,” he comments. “We share the identical values.”

He additionally insists that having to reply to exterior shareholders is not going to be an issue. “They are often demanding. However that may be an excellent factor.”

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

The dynasty is one in every of the corporate’s greatest belongings, he says. “An organization owned by the family can transfer a level of safety and integrity. It offers a assure of continuity. We don’t just rely on one man who comes and goes. The household is the model.”

Central to the Salvatore Ferragamo brand is the “Made in Italy” stamp discovered on its merchandise, denoting high quality and good workmanship. For instance, the company’s formal Tramezza shoes are hand-made in a factory near Florence by half a dozen staff. However, manufacturing costs are a lot increased than these of its opponents, a lot of which have shifted operations Salvatore_Po to Asia. Leonardo’s brother, Ferrucio, as soon as complained in an interview that some of the corporate’s staff worked fewer than eight hours each day and were “spoiled”. They needed, he hinted, to adapt to the worldwide ferragamo master mens shoes economy.

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

Aside from shoes, Leonardo’s great love is crusing, a ardour he has been able to bask in some fashion. In 1998, he purchased Nautor, which makes the well-known Swan yachts, having sailed its boats for years as an enthusiast. In his Italian lilt, he recounts the “lovely story” of how he first came to be involved with the company, which has established such racing events because the Swan Regatta and the Swan Cup, and also scooped the trophy in 1973 for the first Whitbread Spherical the World Race.

“I went to go to the manufacturing facility. A brand new world opened up to me,” he recalls. “I used to be amazed at the quality and reliability of each worker, particularly the satisfaction they have been taking to make it particular.”

Leonardo appreciates good craftsmanship, whether or not in a shoe or a boat. Like Salvatore Ferragamo, Nautor focuses on quality not amount, making just forty yachts a 12 months, which vary in value from €400,000 (£250,000) to several million. “[Footwear and boats] are both forms of transportation,” he provides with out a hint of irony, warming to his theme. “The Swan yacht is about branding and high quality. Footwear are usually not just about aesthetics however what’s inside them. It’s all concerning the id of the product.”

Born 23 July 1953.

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

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

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

1987-ninety four: commercial director, Europe/Asia.
1994-2000: chief executive, Europe/South America/Asia.

2000 to now: chief govt of the holding firm.
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Purchased Nautor in 1998, turning into chairman. Additionally chairman of the board at Camper & Nicholsons, the English yachting business bought by Nautor in 2001.

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