Ferragamo Sponsors Wallis Annenberg Center Opening
By Laurie Brookins
Perhaps there’s a bit of kismet in the idea that Massimiliano Giornetti approaches each of his fashion shows as a short film, a complete story told in just a few brief minutes, and yet filled with narrative and imagery. After all, Giornetti says, Salvatore Ferragamo is a label that in many ways was born from a love of all things Hollywood.
“For me Ferragamo is really LA and so very much connected with the idea of celebrity,” says Giornetti, who joined the brand in 2000 and has served as its creative director since 2010. “There’s also a lot of similarity between Los Angeles and the Italian culture: The sun, the nature, the sea—everything is less frenetic. I can easily understand why Salvatore Ferragamo was so comfortable in this city.”
Long before he founded his eponymous label in Florence, Salvatore Ferragamo had settled quite nicely into the LA lifestyle. Born just east of Naples in 1898, Ferragamo had crafted his first pair of shoes at the age of 9 before emigrating to the US at just 16 years old. He joined family members working for a boot company in Boston, but after a brief stint, grabbed his brothers and headed west, opening a shoe repair and made-to-measure shop in Santa Barbara in 1916 before taking over the Hollywood Boot Shop in 1923 (located at 6687 Hollywood Boulevard—it’s now the site of the Hollywood Cuban Bistro, situated between the Egyptian Theatre and Musso & Frank’s). Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo—the A-listers of the day—soon clamored for Ferragamo’s handmade shoes, though he wasn’t satisfied purely with aesthetics, choosing instead to hone his skills by studying the anatomy of the foot at the University of Southern California, Giornetti says. “He cared very much about fit, and for us he created this link between beautiful and functional, trying to make shoes that were as comfortable as they were perfect.”
Ferragamo spent 13 years in Southern California, and it was only the allure of growing his brand outside of Hollywood into a complete leather-goods collection crafted by Italian artisans that spurred his move back to Florence. But his love of Los Angeles and of the Hollywood culture and the foundation it built for him was never far from mind, Giornetti says: “He left Italy with a lot of dreams, and LA made those dreams come true for him. Something like this, you never forget.”
On October 17 Ferragamo pays tribute to that ideal—with a return of sorts to its heritage—as the sole sponsor of the opening-night gala for the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Among the most high-wattage events of the season, the evening celebrates the opening of the much-discussed cultural center, built over one city block in Beverly Hills and encompassing two buildings: the newly transformed 1934 Beverly Hills Post Office, its Italianate details lovingly preserved, and a new ground-up structure, the 500-seat Goldsmith Theater. The night is cochaired by Wallis Annenberg, Jamie Tisch, Brad Pitt, and Robert Redford, and as part of the festivities, Giornetti will host a showing of Ferragamo’s Spring/Summer 2014 women’s collection. That same night he also will debut a capsule collection of accessories as well as a small grouping of red-carpet gowns, which were designed to commemorate the event. A fan of 1930s architecture, in particular, Giornetti says such an evening brings together “all of my passions—art, architecture, and fashion—in a city that I really love.”
For those planning the event, the partnership with the Italian label is a natural fit. “Salvatore Ferragamo was a pioneer in his day and was one of the first designers to see the potential in the art of the film industry and the magnitude that Hollywood and its legacy would have on the world,” Tisch notes. “I have been excited about the center since Wallis initially told me about her vision more than 10 years ago. Good things come to those who wait, and this is no exception. Ferragamo’s dedication and tremendous support of the opening of The Wallis enables us to create a truly spectacular evening, one that this landmark deserves.”
Giornetti, who has carved his own niche within the label via collections that balance modernity with an appreciation for the aesthetics of the house, smiles when asked what Salvatore Ferragamo might think of such a night. “He loved this city, the relationships that he built with some of the most famous names of the world, and what that in turn built for him,” Giornetti says. “I think he would feel right at home.”
photography by frazer harrison/getty images (pitt); charles gala/getty images (annenberg); Studio Pali Fekete architects [SPF:A] (rendering); courtesy of the Wallis annenberg center for performing arts (post office); Enzo Graffeo/BIPs/Getty Images (ferragamo with shoe molds); Fabio Massimo Aceto © 2013 (giornetti)
Cover shoot: September 2014 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.