As Hollywood's most famous shoe designer, Salvatore Ferragamo created some of the most legendary shoes ever featured in film. He made sandals for the Cecil B. DeMille epic The Ten Commandments ; Dorothy's ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz were made by none other than Ferragamo. Marilyn Monroe's sexy stilettos in The Seven Year Itch – Ferragamo again. Other film credits include Some Like It Hot, Mildred Pierce, and The Postman Always Rings Twice. When Maximilian Davis took the helm at Ferragamo this season, he looked to the Italian brand’s famous Marilyn shoes – the red Swarovski-encrusted pumps created for Marilyn Monroe by the shoemaker for her 1960 film Gentlemen prefer Blondes – for inspiration. Indeed, the fashion house’s new signature red draws from the heels. The heels epitomise Monroe’s long-standing relationship with Salvatore Ferragamo – “the shoemaker of dreams” – whom the actor helped make famous. Marilyn Monroe began buying her high heels from the Ferragamo store on New York’s Park Avenue after moving to the city in 1954, as well as ordering directly from the brand. The actor was a big fan of Ferragamo’s four-inch stiletto heels which she wore both on and off-screen, with the sleek Filetia and Viatica pumps (the latter of which were worn by the star in 1959 film Some Like It Hot) being her favourites. To ensure the shoes were comfortable, Ferragamo patented a new heel especially for Monroe that was half wood and half steel.
Many of Monroe’s shoes are now safely in the hands of the Ferragamo archive: the actor’s red crystal pumps were purchased for a staggering $48,300 (£43,000) at a Christie’s auction in 1999. In 2012, the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo held a major retrospective dedicated to Monroe, 50 years after her death, featuring 30 pairs of shoes alongside some of the star’s most famous outfits.
Why couldn't one design shoes which were as comfortable to wear as they were beautiful to behold? To solve the mystery, Ferragamo enrolled in anatomy courses at The University of Southern California to learn all about the twenty-six bones which make up the human foot. With this knowledge in his arsenal, the Shoemaker to the Stars was able to create some of the best fitting shoes of any designer. He created custom wooden lasts (models) in the shape of the foot of many of his regular clients. Many of the most creative designs in the fashion industry came from the mind of Salvatore Ferragamo. In fact, he held over 300 patents at the time of his death in 1960. Ferragamo was responsible for important structural innovations, such as the steel arch support system he designed to give proper support to not only the foot but the entire body. Another technical breakthrough—a metal interior heel—allowed the master to create the stiletto heel in the 1950s. The sexy design was popularized by Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe, and quickly became beloved for the way in which it made the legs look impossibly long and seductive.