Ferragamo's Rainbow Sandal
Behind every design lies a story, or even more often, a muse that inspired its creation. From Hermes’ iconic Birkin and Kelly bags, whose namesakes are famed British actress Jane Birkin and Princess Grace Kelly, respectively, to Rolex’s “Paul Newman” Daytona, some of history’s most memorable creations site famous individuals as their sources of inspiration. Unsurprisingly, the world of footwear is no different. Decades before Nike first introduced the Air Jordan, a young Italian shoemaker named Salvatore Ferragamo began creating footwear inspired by and designed for Old Hollywood superstars.
Hailing from a small town in southern Italy, Salvatore was one of fourteen children and left home at barely seventeen years old to start a life and career in America. Setting his sights on silver screen stars, the budding shoe designer migrated to the West Coast and opened the Hollywood Boot Shop in 1923, winning over the era’s most prominent actors and actresses as devoted clients. Ferragamo soon became known as the “shoemaker to the stars” and pioneered the flourishing link between fashion and the film industry.
Credited as the inventor of the wedge, Ferragamo’s knowledge of human anatomy and understanding of color and material enabled the young man to design shoes that were both comfortable and striking. One such starlet who took particular notice was American actress, singer and dancer, Judy Garland. A mutual admiration between the Italian shoemaker and the performer blossomed, prompting Ferragamo to create one of the most celebrated designs of his career.
In 1938, Salvatore introduced the Rainbow Sandal, crafted specifically for Garland. The original design was produced in kidskin leather with a layered cork sole and featured a towering platform heel covered in rows of colorful suede. The shoe’s vibrant, 8.5-centimeter wedge elevated the actress’ four-foot, eleven-inch frame, while showcasing his ability to creatively integrate form, color and comfort.
As one of the most famous shoes produced throughout his extensive career, Ferragamo’s Rainbow Sandal went on to become an icon of 20th century footwear. So much so that the designer’s namesake brand recently paid homage to its late founder and re-launched the colorful heel with a sustainable update.
Rooted in the house’s commitment to made-in-Italy production and sustainable fashion, the Rainbow Future – by which the new version is known – is a hand-finished platform made of veritable wood and organic crocheted cotton, certified in accordance with the Global Organic Textile Standard criteria. The heel’s leather lining is finished with no carbon dioxide emissions or water consumptions, while water glue, non-galvanized brass and sewing thread made of recycled materials were also used in the making of the updated design. All of said details are amongst a handful of steps – no pun intended – the brand has taken towards reducing their carbon footprint and working to obtain an “ISO 14067 certification,” which calculates the emissions produced during a product’s making and compensates the manufacturer through reforestation programs, making it a “carbon neutral” design.
With only 100 pairs in production, the Rainbow Future is the embodiment of an iconic design modernized for the contemporary world. Whether old or new, Ferragamo’s rainbow heel will go down in history as an innovation that keeps on giving.