Cover Salvatore Ferragamo rekindles its love affair with Hollywood

From channelling Hitchcock to collaborating with Luca Guadagnino, Salvatore Ferragamo creative director Paul Andrew is rekindling the brand’s long-standing love affair with Hollywood for spring

“I was rewatching The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock maybe for the third or fourth time, and I realised: there’s absolutely no music in the whole movie—only bird song; it’s really trippy,” says Salvatore Ferragamo creative director Paul Andrew. Having exhausted Netflix’s offerings during last year’s lockdown, Andrew revisited his favourite Hitchcock classics, namely Marnie, Vertigo and The Birds, and the collective mood, colours and sound all bled heavily into his resulting spring-summer 2021 collection. Think models with sharp flicks of red eyeliner shod in a Tippi Hedren mint-green suit. “For the entrance music of my September fashion show, I had Frédéric Sanchez, who does my music, create a soundtrack of birds chirping in that eerie Hitchcock way.” Andrew laughs shyly while clad in a burnt-orange jumper, in a video call from the Ferragamo headquarters in Italy.

Andrew’s deep dive into silver screen classics got him thinking about Salvatore Ferragamo’s longstanding love affair with Hollywood. The Italian designer, after all, was the first “shoemaker to the stars”, having set up shop on Hollywood Boulevard just as the film industry blossomed and dressed the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe. “We have a more valid connection to Hollywood than any other fashion brand, I feel, and I wanted to bring that into the fold of our new narrative at Ferragamo,” says Andrew. At press time, there were rumours that his time at Ferragamo may soon come to an end, though if this proves to be the finale, it will certainly be a cinematic ending.

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The first page of this chapter began with a collaboration with celebrated filmmaker Luca Guadagnino of Call Me By Your Name fame. Last year, Guadagnino directed the documentary Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams, which showed at the Cannes Film Festival to raving reviews. “It was actually the first time I got to hear Salvatore’s voice,” says Andrew, when asked if the documentary revealed any astonishing facts he did not already know. Andrew, a reverent custodian of the Italian brand, famously mines Ferragamo’s archive, which is home to more than 15,000 shoe styles thanks to its prolific founder. “My understanding is that he made cassettes only because he was writing his memoir and needed someone to type up the book for him. As creative director for the brand, there was such power in hearing him talk about his story and influences in his own voice—that was very moving for me.”

In a casual phone call during confinement, Andrew discovered that Guadagnino used Hitchcock as his main inspiration for his previous film I Am Love and the two immediately began dreaming up a short film that debuted before the spring show. The film, set across iconic Milanese locations, pays tribute to a scene in Marnie, where Tippi Hedren (who plays the kleptomaniac title character), having interviewed successfully for a job, waits for her colleagues to leave before burgling the office. She famously slips her shoes into her pocket to keep the heels from clacking on the tiled floor as she crawls out on all fours. They, of course, spill out dramatically anyway and the camera moves to an aerial shot of the brown stilettos. In Ferragamo’s version, however, the shot is of the iconic F-heeled shoe, originally designed by Salvatore in 1947, which Andrew reimagined for this season in two heights, the highest being only eight centimetres (“I barely design high heels any more; it doesn’t feel right for the moment. Even when we’re back on the streets partying like it’s 2099, everyone’s still going to appreciate a certain level of comfort”). 

Andrew says the collaboration process sharpened his understanding of the difference between designing for comfort versus visual impact. The colour palette was directly derived from the costumes found in Hitchcock’s films, and while he was drawn to the neutral-hued pieces of his work, for example, Guadagnino preferred the “saturated and juicy hues” of lemon or cherry, envisioning how they might pop on camera.

“I truly consider him one of the most important film directors working right now,” says Andrew of Guadagnino. “The way he would angle the camera or linger on a fabric and zoom in onto it—it’s this voyeurism that you have as a movie director, and I started thinking about that as I design my collections and how that’s going to be seen by the outside world.”

Andrew began as Ferragamo’s design director of women’s footwear four years ago and was promoted to creative director in 2019. His aesthetic is in many ways a product of his apprenticeships under Alexander McQueen and Calvin Klein, where he learned construction and restraint, and then under Donna Karan, where he absorbed the importance of wearability. But fabric and quality is in his blood—his father was the upholsterer for the royal family, which meant Andrew spent much of his childhood on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

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“I’m obsessed with The Crown, I even referenced it a few seasons ago,” says Andrew, giddy as he recounts the shows he’s binge-watched over the holidays. He’s a fan of season four, when Princess Diana was introduced, portrayed by Emma Corrin, but he’s particularly excited that Elizabeth Debicki will play the older princess next season. Andrew took Debicki to the 2019 Met Gala, dressing her in a stunning blush gown, adorned with an enormous bow in the front and styled with long, white gloves. “I have a lot of images of Diana on my inspiration boards here because she famously carried a Ferragamo purse we call the Lady D bag internally.”

Every Monday he and his design team would come into the studio, where they’d engage in animated conversation over the Netflix or Amazon Video shows they’d seen over the weekend, which would inevitably spark ideas, proving to Andrew that Hollywood indeed continues to hold sway over fashion. For his next collection, to be shown this month, I asked Andrew, who was wary of spoilers, to drop hints in the form of movie recommendations. “I’m thinking of the future, but in the context of the past,” he says cryptically. “I’ve been watching Wings of Desire, Blade Runner and Gattaca.” They each evoke a dystopian world, not unlike the one we’re living in, I point out. “Yes, but watch them again and you’ll see how beautiful they all actually are,” he says. “It’s the same with the Hitchcock movies—there’s always a hidden danger that is pronounced in his films, but ultimately there’s a happy ending. We are living in such a surreal moment too, and I’d love that that might be our reality.”

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