Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Salvatore Ferragamo's Calling

Photo of the Ferragamo palazzo in Firenze - on the River Arno.

When I was last in Florence I went to the Ferragamo Shoe Museum. It is housed in the 15th Century palazzo that has been in the Ferragamo family since that time. Today, it also houses the family’s offices and the elegant Ferragamo store. As a fashionista and costume designer early in my life, I was mesmerized by the displays, room after room, of shoes from as early as the 1920’s in the most artistic patterns and materials. Ferragamo became the shoemaker to the stars. The company displays the lasts belonging to Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, Katherine Hepburn. The stunning observation is how little fashion changes – how easily and predictably it repeats itself. Many of the platform shoes worn in the 1940’s were back in the 1970’s and now, back again. Hmmm….is the thirty-year cycle significant? That would be a generation, wouldn’t it?

That is just the set up. While in the exhibit, I read a piece about “calling” from Salvatore Ferragamo’s autobiography, which sent me into delight. I copied it all by hand into my journal then and pass it on now to you – hoping it will make you as happy or even the tiniest bit inspired to think about your own calling. It is enchanting.

“I was born to be a shoemaker. I know it. I have always known it. I was born to be a shoemaker. But where does my knowledge come from? It is not inherited. In late years, I have searched the records of my ancestors through 400 years. There was no shoemaker among them.

From my first day with shoes – yes, even the little white shoes I made for my sister, I have remembered all about shoemaking. I have remembered. That is the only way to describe it. I have only to sit down and think and the answers come to me out of the memory of the days and it can only be this: when in some previous existence upon this earth I was a shoemaker. There can be no other explanation.

How else can I explain my sense of design? I do not have to search for styles. When I need new ideas, I select from those that present themselves to my mind, as I select an apple from the laden dish upon my table.”

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