In 2020, Luca Guadagnino, the most international of Italian directors, presented two films at the Venice International Film Festival: a short documentary shot in Sicily during the lockdown for the Covid pandemic, and a feature length documentary focusing on the figure and work of Salvatore Ferragamo.
In Fiori, Fiori, Fiori! we see Luca Guadagnino knocking on the doors of his childhood friends and discussing with them their experience of the pandemic, this exceptional moment which has united the entire world.
In a director’s statement, Guadagnino explained that driven by inertia, he began to reflect in detail on the places where he spent his early childhood in Sicily, until he found the meaning of his roots and the sense of his present-day in the changing landscape of spring. There is something very intimate in Fiori, Fiori, Fiori! It’s a short personal escape “in search of the people, places and relationships of his youth.”
Although Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams is a different model of filmmaking, it is the expression of an identical and compelling creative energy.
“That has been my life’s work: striving to learn to make shoes that always fit and the refusal to put my name to any that do not fit. Therefore, please look behind the story of the small, barefoot, unlettered boy who became a famous shoemaker, and seek the pleasure you will obtain from walking well.”
These are the final words—written by the man himself—of the preface to Salvatore Ferragamo’s autobiography, the tale of a pioneer whose creative genius remains as unrivalled as it is timeless today and who unintentionally bound his story to the world of film.
Luca Guadagnino’s feature-length documentary, which premiered Out of Competition at the 77th Venice Film Festival, traces Ferragamo’s artistic journey, but it also tells the story behind the man through the two deeply interwoven worlds that he inhabited: Italy and America. It follows Salvatore from his birthplace in the Southern Italian region of Campania to the United States, from apprentice shoemaker in Naples to owner of the Hollywood Boot Shop in California, to his decision to return to Italy, to live and work in Florence, mastering his craft and rising to success as a businessman. All this in the span of one life marked by genius and intuition, the very traits that helped him overcome the difficulties he faced.
The project began in 2017 when Luca Guadagnino, inspired by his reading of the shoemaker and Italian entrepreneur’s autobiography, reached out to the Ferragamo family, who opened the doors of the fashion brand’s archives to him, giving him access to interviews, family anecdotes and other information, as well as the final, precious words of Wanda Miletti, Salvatore’s wife, surrounded by her many children and grandchildren.
For three years, Fondazione Ferragamo and Museo Salvatore Ferragamo worked with the director and screenwriter Dana Thomas, sharing historical expertise and in-depth knowledge. The tape recordings of Salvatore reading aloud some of the chapters of his autobiography, which were restored for the occasion, and the radio interviews he gave in Australia also proved invaluable for their research.
The film traces Ferragamo’s life from growing up poor in Bonito, Italy, a small village deep in the Italian countryside, to immigrating to America in 1915 and becoming a shoemaker to the stars. He helped shape the glamour of the Hollywood silent era, creating shoes for films like The Thief of Bagdad and The Ten Commandments, and for stars like Gloria Swanson, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford. Despite a Depression-era slump, Ferragamo then defined the elegance for more Hollywood icons, from Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe to Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, and Ingrid Bergman.
The Oscar-nominated Italian filmmaker has gathered a terrific group of luminaries to pay tribute to the fashion icon: film director Martin Scorsese speaking about the intertwined relationship between cinema and fashion, contemporary footwear designers Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin expressing their reverence for the late innovator, and Vogue Creative Director Grace Coddington among them. They all marvel over Salvatore Ferragamo’s genius and a series of major historical moments.
There is something moving, intimate and even poetic about Guadagnino’s approach, even for viewers unfamiliar with Ferragamo’s fashion legacy. We feel admiration for the man who succeeded in making the American dream happen, and also for the craftsman whose passion was to make all women dream thanks to the shoes he created.
Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams is set to release later this year.