Written by Ian Thompson | 27 July 2018
A new exhibition at the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in Florence reflects on the designer’s early career in California where his support amongst the film stars of Hollywood cemented his reputation as one of Italy’s foremost fashion designers.
Bonaveri has contributed a number of Bonaveri bust forms, including forms from the new Sartorial Collection to the exhibition where garments and costumes of the era are on display amongst other Hollywood memorabilia. Hollywood, at the time, was the centre of creative innovation with the film industry acting as an archive and interpreter of interior design, fashion, writing and music. Interest in Italian culture was at a peak with movies of the era heavily invested in Roman and Renaissance themes that drew upon the knowledge and creativity of artists such as Salvatore Ferragamo.
The layout of the exhibition envisions a typical 1920s movie set and is aided by the contemporary scenography designed by Maurizio Balò. Each room recreates the ambience of Ferragamo’s time spent in California (1915 to 1927), retrospectively referred to by Ferragamo as a parallel moment in the development of his career alongside the silent movie genre. Visitors are introduced to life at the time through art, music, video and costume and exposes the influence that Italian migrants had on the Californian movie industry.
The exhibition, curated by Giuliana Muscio and Stefania Ricci, is arranged around 8 rooms and features the garments, objects, furniture and film industry memorabilia of the time. Amongst Salvatore Ferragamo’s friends and clients were some of Hollywoods greatest stars; Enrico Caruso, Mary Pickford, Pola Negri, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Lillian Gish, and Rudolph Valentino. He established strong relationships with each often spending time with them on a daily basis. As a whole, the exhibition is a showcase of Italian design, illustrating the influence that Italian’s living and working in Californa would have on North America’s architecture, art, craft, theatre and cinema.
A recent study in the United States by the scholar Catherine Angela Dewar under the guidance of the historian Elvira Valleri made it possible to focus on some of the most important aspects of Ferragamo’s experience in California. The study confirmed more than just his undisputed entrepreneurial skills, but also his determination and commitment to improving his design and technical skills.
Much of the material gathered for the exhibition has come from Italian and American collectors with many of the items seen in public for the first time.
Eventually, Salvatore Ferragamo was to leave California and return to his native Italy where he subsequently found success by cementing Italian and American popular culture with commercial advantage.
‘Italy in Hollywood’ at the Salvatore Ferragamo Mueum in Florence is open until the 10th of March, 2019
Palazzo Spini Feroni
Piazza Santa Trinita 5/R, 50123 Florence
10am – 7.30pm daily