Ferragamo luxury with a Millennial flavour
di Silvia Pieraccini
4' di lettura
When Salvatore Ferragamo returned to Italy in 1927 after 12 years in the US, where he had made his reputation as the shoemaker to the stars of Hollywood, he decided to settle in Florence and open a shoe factory, attracted by the artisan tradition, the decorative arts and the modernity with which the city was associated.
Originally from the little town of Bonito in Irpinia, the love that Salvatore nurtured for Florence until his death in 1960 was passed on to his wife Wanda (who died in October 2018) and all six of his children who, in continuing the legacy of the founder, have always shown great respect and love for the city that took them in and supported the growth of the brand (as demonstrated by the restoration projects financed by the company, including that of the grandiose Fountain of Neptune in Piazza della Signoria or the many events held here).
But Florence was, and still is, also the cultural reference point for Ferragamo, the place that inspires its activities and collections, the commercial and family home the company returned to even after establishing itself on the international market.
This is how the area, with its traditions and artisanship so beloved of Salvatore, became one of the Group’s most important drivers and continues to be so today during the stylistic and economic-financial renewal process that the label is currently undergoing. The path chosen by the management is not that of changing the brand’s identity, disowning its past or following the trends of the moment, but of updating, modernising and assuming a more contemporary outlook. Innovating yes, but according to its original principles, founding values and DNA.
As Micaela Le Divelec, former Executive VP of Gucci, commented when she was made CEO just over a year ago: «We don’t want to jump on the bandwagon and follow all the latest trends». James Ferragamo, son of chairman Ferruccio, grandson of founder Salvatore and head of the group’s footwear and leather goods division, explains further: «We have focused on the typical principles and values of the brand, connected with tradition, craftsmanship and the local area, and given them a contemporary spin».
James Ferragamo’s list of the “brand’s recognised values” includes colour, warmth, Mediterranean style, innovation, good taste and family: «We have worked on this framework – he continues –, coordinating all activities right across the board, from the development of the collections to marketing, and from distribution to communications with the emphasis on multi-platform digital technology». And to clearly represent the identity of the brand and give it a consistent style, in March the company “promoted” British designer Paul Andrew, previously dedicated exclusively to the women’s collections, to creative director of all Salvatore Ferragamo products. Paul Andrew made his menswear debut in Florence in June during Ferragamo’s Pitti Uomo runway show in Piazza della Signoria - the first time this location had ever been used for a fashion show - in what was the umpteenth homage to the city so adored by Salvatore.
«It was an important moment of great visibility that underlined the brand’s exceptional vibrancy and intrinsic bond with Florence», says James Ferragamo.
On the subject of this vibrancy, the group is also working to strengthen its e-commerce and social network platforms, “channels of information and word-of-mouth that have also become the media of choice for evaluating acquisitions” Ferragamo stresses, thinking above all of the ultra-connected Millennials. Nevertheless, faithful to the history and values of the maison, the manager recognises the importance of direct relations with the customer: “But our network of stores (661, 397 of which are directly managed, Ed.), where we offer a gratifying and high-quality shopping experience, is always paramount in our thoughts. Internet is a great help but for luxury brands the physical store still has a very strong impact.”
An impact that is visible in the company’s accounts. Ferragamo, listed on the Milan Stock Exchange, began its revival at the start of the year with the positive results in the first quarter, a trend that was consolidated in the second quarter. It closed the first six months of 2019 with a 4.6% increase in turnover (€705 million), a 2.1% increase in EBITDA, and a net profit of €60 million (+2.4%). Sales were driven by Asia Pacific, which remains the group’s biggest market (+8.1% in the first half-year), while North America and Japan remained stable. The best-performing products were leather bags and accessories (+6.8%), but there was also an upturn in sales of shoes (+4%), the brand’s most symbolic product given that everything began with Salvatore Ferragamo’s studies of the foot and the sole with the aim of making women feel more comfortable. The end-of-year results are expected to be in line with the trend of the first half with revenues of around € 1.4 billion.