Justly famous for its biannual parade of Pitti Peacocks, I was inspired to do a little sauntering of my own at the bi-annual menswear fair in Florence last week – without my click-friendly compadres in tow, but with a similar adherence to the stylish protocols of this particular town.
These can be summarised thus: when in Florence, do as a Florentine. To whit: eat at Cibreo (perhaps a drink at the café, followed by a casual yet superlative lunch served by a waiter who’ll happily sit at your table beforehand to run through the unlisted four-course menu); avoid Café Gilli (now it’s enlarged to a permanently covered deck that extends half way across the Piazza della Repubblica this habitual hang-out of thirsty fashionistas is now strictly ‘bridge and tunnel’), and check out its preeminent shopping street, Via de’ Tornabuoni.
And it was while wafting along the last - between my berth at its Portrait hotel and the nearby Il Borro Tuscan Bistro (formidably stocked with the fruits of the family estate 40 miles to the southeast) - that I popped into the city’s (and thus the world’s) flagship Salvatore Ferragamo store.
It’s in exalted company: Prada, Gucci, Pomellato and Versace all have shops along Via d’Tornabuoni. But if one were to imagine a ruling family of Florentine luxury, Salvatore Ferragamo - whose first store is still housed within the Palazzo Spini Feroni - would be it.
The evening I entered, I was already late for an appearance by Karl Lagerfeld at the opening of an exhibition of his photography, Visions Of Fashion, at the nearby Palazzo Pitti (not to be missed, particularly the fifteen panels depicting Le Voyage de Ulysse, an etched glass version of which runs around the poolside of the Monaco’s Hotel Metropole). However, I was made later still by the array of delectable footwear on offer in the area dedicated to “Ferragamo’s Creations”. A reconstruction of Salvatore’s original atelier, even on a humid evening in late June it offered the same ambience its namesake once likened to a “nice drawing room where the customer feels like a special guest”.
Of course, women’s shoes will always take precedence in Ferragamo’s world, authenticated as they are by a peerless parade of admirers, from Marilyn Monroe to Audrey Hepburn to Lauren Bacall (who once ordered 70 pairs). But Salvatore was no slouch in the men’s department, either. Many of these were born in the Fifties and Sixties and their lasts have been preserved - along with the secrets of their construction - in the adjacent Salvatore Ferragamo Museum and are now available to buy again, complete with the original Ferragamo label, designed in 1927 by the Futurist painter Lucio Venna.
I’d been lured in by a perfect pair of neo-vintage desert boots made all the more contemporary by their battlefield-ready enlarged metal eyelets, but stayed to try on (and subsequently purchase) a pair of extremely elegant black suede moccasins, the like of which I’d been searching for in vain for at least the last three summers.
There is doubtless a cult of native shoppers, who will only make their purchases in the cities (and ideally stores) to which a product is inextricably linked. I can see the appeal. Especially in Florence, and certainly where footwear is concerned. But particularly if Salvatore Ferragamo continues to invest in the modish brilliance of its founder’s creations.
Source: The Telegraph Photos: Ferragamo; Aaron Christian