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Leonardo Ferragamo: Angels Need to Put on His Purple Shoes

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

Unlike “Brand Beckham”, assiduously cultivated by the footballer David and his celebrity spouse, Victoria, this is no Johnny-come-these days marketing wheeze. Salvatore Ferragamo began one of many world’s grandest luxury items companies when he opened his first shoe store in Florence in 1927. Certainly one 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 liable for the metallic-reinforced stiletto heels made well-known by Marilyn Monroe.

By the 1950s, Salvatore Ferragamo was the shoe of choice for stars akin to Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Greta Garbo. Throughout, he insisted that all the company’s products ought to solely 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 special individual. However I by no means obtained to know him properly as I was seven when he died.”

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

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

However Salvatore Ferragamo is set to alter. Final ferragamo store in boston 12 months, for the primary time in its 80-12 months history, somebody from outdoors the household was introduced in to run the business. Michele Norsa, previously the chief govt of the rival Italian group Valentino, replaced Wanda, now aged eighty five, who has change into chairman as she cuts down her workload and prepares to cross on the reins.

And in September, the corporate introduced its intention to float on the inventory 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 different nice family-run Italian companies, such as 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 onerous to choose a brand new boss,” says Leonardo, who’s reported to have been chargeable for placing ahead the flotation plans to the family. “We have to modernise the corporate and get it prepared for the following era.”

In interviews, Wanda has always strongly rejected the potential of selling the business, saying recently she was “virtually offended” by the thought. However she has conceded that her youngsters, between whom ownership of the corporate is divided, might really feel otherwise. By going public, the second generation of Ferragamos will be able to promote their shares in the event that they want.

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

He also insists that having to answer to outside shareholders won’t be a problem. “They are often demanding. However that may be a very good factor.”

Leonardo says that regardless of the flotation plans, Salvatore Ferragamo will stay true to its principles and the family will nonetheless be closely concerned even after it lists in round two years’ time.

The dynasty is considered one of the company’s greatest assets, he says. “An organization owned by the household can transfer a stage of safety and integrity. It offers a assure of continuity. We do not simply depend on one man who comes and goes. The family is the brand.”

Central to the Salvatore Ferragamo model is the “Made in Italy” stamp found on its products, denoting prime quality and good workmanship. For instance, the corporate’s formal Tramezza shoes are hand-made in a manufacturing unit close to Florence by half a dozen staff. However, manufacturing costs are much increased than those of its competitors, many of which have shifted operations Salvatore_Po to Asia. Leonardo’s brother, Ferrucio, once complained in an interview that some of the corporate’s workers worked fewer than eight hours each day and were “spoiled”. They needed, he hinted, to adapt to the worldwide economy.

Leonardo doesn’t promise that each one the corporate’s items will probably be made in Italy indefinitely: “Now we have to maintain our eyes open. Things change on this planet. There are different alternatives around the world. We have an open angle to it.”

Other than sneakers, Leonardo’s nice love is sailing, a ardour he has been able to take pleasure in some model. 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 “stunning story” of how he first got here to be involved with the corporate, which has established such racing occasions as the Swan Regatta and the Swan Cup, and in addition scooped the trophy in 1973 for the primary Whitbread Spherical the World Race.

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

Leonardo appreciates good craftsmanship, whether in a shoe or a boat. Like Salvatore Ferragamo, Nautor focuses on quality not amount, making just 40 yachts a year, which vary in worth from €400,000 (£250,000) to several million. “[Sneakers and boats] are each types of transportation,” he provides with no hint of irony, warming to his theme. “The Swan yacht is about branding and high quality. Sneakers will not be just about aesthetics but what’s inside them. It’s all in regards to the identification of the product.”

Born 23 July 1953.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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