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Don’t Forget Your Ferragamos: 35 Years of the Vara

Deciding what footwear to pack for your luxury holiday is a conundrum faced by many women. Limited trunk space, variable climate, and multiple wardrobe changes make this one of the most difficult packing decisions to navigate. Often times in the face of such a decision, it is the most classic and reliable of our wardrobe choices that end up making the final cut. Nobody knew this better than iconic shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo. Luxury design house and leather goods retailer Salvatore Ferragamo is a name that has been synonymous with luxury and quality since the birth of the company in 1914. In May of this year, the storied design house of Ferragamo launched a customizable version of its iconic Vara shoe that sent fashionistas all over the world scrambling for their web browsers in an attempt to get in on the action. Even if you are not a dedicated shoe connoisseur, or even a follower of fashion, you will most certainly recognise Ferragamo’s legendary Vara shoe. Although it was actually Ferragamo’s daughter Fiamma who designed the original Vara pump in 1978 (the apple certainly did not fall far from the tree), the design has become an emblem of the company’s high standard of quality and design, and has the ability to transcend style trends over the decades. The iconic Vara design has graced the floors of urban ballrooms and rambling country houses alike for the past 35 years, and shows no signs of fading away any time soon.

Salvatore Ferragamo made his first pair of shoes at the age on nine; a pair of simple yet pristine shoes for his sister to wear to her confirmation. Even from such an early age, Ferragamo realised that he had found his true calling in life. After studying shoemaking in Naples for a year, he set up a small shoe shop in his parents home. Things really started to take off after Salvatore Ferragamo emigrated to America from Italy in 1914, and went on to open a custom shoe shop in Hollywood. Ferragamo’s shop serviced some very high-profile Hollywood clients (like film star of the day Gloria Swanson), as well as provided footwear for large studio productions. Just before the Great Depression, Ferragamo returned to Italy and again set up shop. Like so many tradesmen of the time, he fell upon hard times, although unlike so many other business casualties of the era, Ferragamo managed to quickly recover his company through sheer work and determination, and was profitable again by 1938. It was then that Ferragamo purchased the lavish Palazzo Spini Fioroni in Florence, where the company’s flagship store and museum reside to this day.

Known for its sensible mid-height heel and traditional “granny chic” appeal, the Vara pump has been a favourite of many a well-heeled woman over the past 35 years. Both Margaret Thatcher and Marilyn Monroe were fans of the shoe, as are some of the more current style stars such as blogger Susie “Bubble” Lau and American socialite and blogger Olivia Palermo

This year’s customizable Vara campaign was dubbed L’Icona project, and launched with a series of beautiful photographs by fine art photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank, featuring of some of the most recognizable “it girls” of fashion wearing their Vara pumps. The timing of this launch could not have been more perfect; the past fashion seasons have seen an emergence of lower, more squarely designed heels both on the runway and on the high street. In May, this trend was noted by The Wall Street Journal, citing the more restrained silhouettes of a “more graceful, showing less is more aesthetic of generations past.” Followers of fashion will undoubtedly have picked-up on this trend already, with the newfound popularity of such classics as skirt suits, below the knee dresses, and frame handbags. According to the Wall Street Journal, this resurgence of classic, ladylike garments is likely a response to the hyper-sexualised fashions of a celebrity tabloid culture that permeates our current media. In the wake of this constant competition to be the most shocking, the most revealing, or the most (inadvertently or not) tastelessly dressed in the room, many women across varying age groups are looking to these classic silhouettes with an eye that is tired of being pushed to the edge, and embracing a new definition of what sexy really is. This new wave of what the Wall Street Journal called “quieter and more discerning” fashions have set the stage perfectly for the Ferragamo Vara pump to slide effortlessly back into its rightful place as the reigning monarch of understated good taste in footwear.

Those interested in customizing their own Varas can choose the colour and finish of the leather of the shoe, the colour of the bow and heel, and whether they want gold or silver hardware. There is also an option for customers to get their initials carved into a little metal plaque that is glued into the sole of the shoe. Each pair of customizable Varas are made to order, and therefore all sales are final. Orders generally take about 10 weeks to complete. If you are looking to place an order for a customised pair of Vara pumps and have never before worn Ferragamo shoes, it is recommended that you call the company’s customer service help line to inquire about sizing.

The launch of customizable Vara pumps proved to be one of the most popular launches in the history of the Ferragamo company. Women from all over the world have responded to the re-marketing of this classic shoe with a resounding “yes please”. In fact, the demand was such that many of the colour options have sold out online, and therefore there may be a bit of a wait for all options to once again become available. Like all things that gain iconic status, the wait will undoubtedly be worth it, but it would be wise to start planning now if you are interested in obtaining a pair of customizable Vara pumps to take with you on an upcoming luxury holiday escape.