Daughter of Salvatore Ferragamo, Giovanna Gentile Ferragamo reminisces about her father's legacy on the occasion of the brand's reopening of its store on Canton Road, Hong Kong.
Giovanna Gentile Ferragamo’s back is silhouetted against the light streaming in from the expansive windows of Hong Kong’s Upper House hotel suite and she seems to be taking delight in her bird’s-eye view of the harbour. She’s in Hong Kong for the reopening of the brand’s Canton Road flagship boutique, which recently underwent an extensive renovation that was awarded a LEED Gold certification for its energy eficiency and environmental consciousness. (What makes this even more impressive is the fact that the 7,320sqft duplex hosts multi-media displays and innovative video projections.) Housing Salvatore Ferragamo’s full range of products, the store is said to be one of the brand’s best sales performers globally, which would explain why the Ferragamo familia—including Ferruccio Ferragamo, Fulvia Visconti Ferragamo, Leonardo Ferragamo, Massimo Ferragamo and James Ferragamo—have made their way to the island for the event.
It’s an important occasion and the day is packed with activities that will end with an exclusive party at the Asia Society Centre, with a 1,000plus guestlist that includes celebrities such as South Korean singer-actress YoonA and Hong Kong actor Julian Cheung, along with a host of social media darlings. But for now, it’s just Giovanna Ferragamo, Vice Chairman of Salvatore Ferragamo SpA, and myself, drinking espresso in a plush yet cosy suite before the day’s hectic momentum finds us.
Sitting erect and looking elegantly trim in a fur jacket from fall 2017, Ms Ferragamo has a presence that belies her petite frame. Her eyes twinkle with good humour as I ply her with questions, and I discover that she’s a straight shooter who isn’t afraid to say what she means. Laughter punctuates our conversation as she shares memories of the visionary that was her father and what she imagines he’d say about the luxury empire that bears his name if he were alive today.
A special limited edition capsule collection of
ﬁve designs was created for the reopening of Ferragamo’s Hong Kong boutique on Canton Road, including this fuchsia Vara Rainbow bag
A keychain from a capsule collection that’s available exclusively at the new Canton Road store. Giovanna Gentile Ferragamo.
How much has changed since you launched Ferragamo’s first ready-to-wear collection in 1965?
I think fashion has become very individual to each person. In the beginning, when I started working, there were trends that lasted all season, maybe even staying two or three seasons; and fashion was slower in changing. Now, everything is very fast; you can see mini-skirts, long skirts, everything is in fashion together. I think that this is positive in one way because it gives each person a lot of possibility of being one’s self and putting one’s self together. On the other side, it’s a little bit confusing and, many times, I think we are missing a bit of good taste. So, as with all things, there is the bad and the good. we are missing a bit of good taste. So, as with all things, there is the bad and the good.
What is good taste to you?
Good taste is to be elegant and positive in what you wear, and to always try to be a little better, feel a little better, than you are. Bad taste is when you really kill yourself in wearing shapes that are not good for your body and not dressing in the right way for the right occasion. Sometimes, I see people who would look great on some other occasion, are. Bad taste is when you really kill yourself in wearing shapes that are not good for your body and not dressing in the right way for the right occasion. Sometimes, I see people who would look great on some other occasion, but they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time of the day. but they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time of the day.
An archival cork wedge
The iconic “F” heel from 1947.
Multi-media displays complete the new store
What are you most proud of, in terms of the brand and its evolution?
It is to have developed the company. When my father died, we were only producing shoes and I had just started with ready-to-wear. And his dream was always to have his company become a complete House of fashion—dressing a woman from toe-totop. And this is something that we have achieved. Also, we have never licensed our name on products that are not directly controlled by us: We have been manufacturing and producing 100 percent in Italy so that we can control the quality of every single piece we deliver from the factory. This is something that is not easy to achieve these days, but we will really try to continue doing this as one of our key principles.
Salvatore Ferragamo’s spirit still lives on very strongly in the brand. If he were still alive today, what do you think your father would say?
Good question! You know, he was very challenging and very strict but I’m sure he would be happy because we really achieved a lot and did our best to follow his steps, his rules—even for the training inside our company. His archives, and the museum where we show his creations, are still very fundamental to the DNA of the House. It’s the philosophy he had in creating that is important to capture. And he was always looking forward—many of his designs, his styles, are still so fashionable today. He had a very great passion for women and he wanted them to always feel the best and to be daring. But even in his most extravagant designs, it was about good taste. That is the philosophy that is at the root of everything. So, if he could talk, I’m sure he would give much more advice and maybe many more new views. But I’m sure he would be quite happy about what we have achieved.
Can you share with us a memory of your father?
I have quite a few because I am lucky enough to have been with him until I was 17. He pushed me in the direction of ready-to-wear when I was 15—I was still attending school. So, when I was free from school, I used to buy fabrics and put together designs with a dressmaker. He was always very encouraging even if my designs were horrible; and I must say I appreciated that very much because it doesn’t put you down. I didn’t have a schedule to make clothes because I didn’t have a season to take care of; I was just beginning. But after a year and a half, I had quite a few styles, prototypes that I had put together. Then one day, he called me from the showroom: “Come Giovanna, I want you to meet some American people here.” They were the buyers for Lord & Taylor and he wanted me to show them the collection I had done. I could have died because I was so shy! But that was him; he was all about the surprise. So I showed them the collection and I had my first small order from Lord & Taylor. I was 15. And that was my start [in fashion] because then I had to face the order. Even if there were just three pieces for each style, I had no one except my little dressmaker to help me. So I had to get organised and all of that. He was daring all the time. He was sure about himself, he was sure of what he was doing, and always one step ahead of the things people would normally do. And that’s why his company grew so fast. Many times I think to myself: If he were alive, what would he have done? But he was so genius, I cannot guess.
What would you like the annals of fashion history to say about the brand?
That it is a very unique brand that dressed women from toe to top; which is unusual. There are so many fantastic brands and luxury houses that I admire and appreciate. But our history is the reverse of others. Usually, brands produce the looks, the clothes and then they accessorise. But we did the reverse, so there isn’t really another company like us. When I started working, I was very, very young, and our company was already very well-known because of our shoes, of course. So I had a terrible problem because I had to start from the shoes and then go up. Many times, I wanted to do the opposite. You know, you’re young, you have a vision, you want to do a dress which is more aggressive, a little more daring. But every time I did something that way, I never succeeded. So, I learnt from my mistakes and I understood that my mission was to dress up the shoes. This is what I’ve done all my life: I dressed up the shoes.
By Charmaine Ho