Salvatore Ferragamo Was Doing This Before It Became Cool

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In the late 1980s and early 1990s, scientists began to form a consensus: the climate was measurably changing, and humans were the cause. Oceans were heating up, CO2 levels were on the rise, and greenhouse gases from pollution were causing harm to the environment. Yet, here we are in 2019, facing the same problems on an even more pronounced scale.

In fact, just last week, the UN released a detailed report stating that one million species on the planet are currently under a threat of extinction because of humans, and we just so happen to rely on a good portion of those species for food. One of the major contributing factors to climate change is the waste produced by the fashion industry – an issue we have reported on with urgency. The production of the clothes and accessories you wear has a direct effect on the environment.

There are few in the industry moving to create the drastic change needed to stem the tide of impact. However, there is one brand that we truly – from the bottom of our bleeding hearts – appreciate for having been ahead of the sustainability curve way before it was cool, trendy, or necessary to do so: Salvatore Ferragamo. Our appreciation deepened tremendously when we learned, via the new Sustainable Thinking exhibition at Museo Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence, that the house founder had married his brand to the project of continued sustainability since the 1920s. Yes, you read that right – sustainability has been a raison d’etre at Salvatore Ferragamo for nearly a century.

Salvatore Ferragamo Sustainability
Salvatore Ferragamo '42 Degrees' capsule collection | Photo: Courtesy of Salvatore Ferragamo

It’s stunning to learn something new – especially something so vital to the current social conversation – about a brand you already thought you knew so well. Salvatore Ferragamo has not only been a design innovator (and the maker of some of our favorite shoe styles), but it has also implemented the use of upcycled materials, raw and environmentally-friendly textiles, and experimental but ethical techniques in the making of its products. And it took the Sustainable Thinking exhibition to open our eyes to its incredible pioneering spirit.

For that reason, we are taking you on an intimate journey through the exhibition in the gallery, above, which transitions through Salvatore Ferragamo’s early research into materials like hemp, cellophane, and fish skin into the story of how he made these oft-discarded materials into luxury items. The exhibition offers a truly fascinating tour through unconventional material creation, real examples of a circular economy in action, intricate crafting techniques in the art of recycling, and the rediscovery of nearly forgotten handcrafting traditions.

When you might start to feel cynical about the fate of the world, this thoughtfully detailed exhibition will restore your hope and faith in humanity.

When you might start to feel cynical about the fate of the world, this thoughtfully detailed exhibition will restore your hope and faith in humanity. Long before anyone even uttered the word “sustainability”, Salvatore Ferragamo was putting it at the forefront of its production. In addition to its Sustainable Thinking exhibition, the brand has introduced a new project that is a brainchild of Flavia Corridori and Luciano Dimotta – the designers behind the Italian house – called ‘42 Degrees’. This new capsule collection draws inspiration from Salvatore Ferragamo’s 1938 ‘Kidskin’ sandal (which incidentally was designed for Judy Garland), placing the rainbow on an array of sustainably crafted products.

Corridori and Dimotta even go one step further to ensure the products in the ‘42 Degrees’ capsule collection are created using a simple, straightforward manufacturing process that proves the brand’s commitment to transparent, traceable supply chains. Honestly, we couldn’t be prouder to support the important, dare we say vital, work that Salvatore Ferragamo is doing right now – and has been doing for a while now. We’ll hopefully see a lot more brands and luxury houses following suit to tackle the issues that fashion contributes to climate change.

Fingers crossed.

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