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Charting A Family Empire

He was no doubt a man one would have been richer for knowing: Salvatore Ferragamo, master shoemaker, founder of a world-wide empire that, despite its size, clings fast to his principle of never sacrificing quality to expediency.

He was one of those rare spirits who managed to wed his fantasies of footwear to the sanity that all of us must walk. In his mind, no matter how frivolous the garb of the feet, comfort – the result of proper fitting – was paramount.

In his book, Shoemaker of Dreams, he explains how, at 9, still a child himself, he sat up all night making shoes so his tiny sisters would be properly shod for their first communions. The family was poor, the cost of the shoes was beyond their means, but anything less than white kid would have been a disgrace intolerable to Italians.

Salvatore Ferragamo believed that he was born to his calling, he explains an almost mystical connection with his craft which he believed came to him full-blown from some previous existence. Maybe he was right because, though he trained with shoemakers of merit, his shoes were always beyond their skills.

He was born in 1898, at 16 he left for the United States and within a few years was producingfootwear for the likes of Lillian Gish, Mae West, Greta Garbo and Eva Peron. He opened operations in Italy in 1926 believing that it was only in his native land that the skills existed to produce quality shoes in quantity.

Every pair had to incorporate his principles of last design and arch support – those are still part of every Ferregamo shoe – because he firmly believed “If you have a headache, your shoes don’t fit properly.” He pioneered the idea of making shoes of various widths but once the practical criteria were met, there was no limit to his imagination. He invented the wedgie, the “invisible” shoe of clear plastic, shoes of snail shells and silk, kangaroo and seaweed, even the pleated paper used to wrap candies.

A retrospective of his creations, dating from 1929 to 1960 when he died, opened April 4 in the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Plans are to move it later to Milan and New York.

He was nearly ruined when the world economy crashed in the great depression but, charactaristically, he started all over again. “He was a man of great gentleness and great strength,” his widow, Wanda, can now say calmly. She’s no slouch herself. Married at 18 to a man more than twice her age, she bore him six children, lived a full life as wife and mother till his death, then – as if nothing could be more natural – took over as president of his empire.

The children are all part of it now: Fiamma in charge of the design and creation of women’s shoes, handbags, small leather goods and luggage; Giovanna who organizes of women’s ready-to-wear; Ferruccio, general manager; Fulvia, who oversees accessories; Leonardo, who runs the men’s division; Massimo, U.S. marketing.

Each month, the company produces some 70,000 pairs of shoes, 7,000 to 8,000 outfits for men and women and about 4,000 handbags which are sold throughout the world.

Creeds has placed a substantial order for this fall’s ready-to-wear which, along with shoes, is also carried at Via Condotti in Toronto. The clothes were on the runway in Milan but everything is masterminded out of the thirteenth century Palazzo Feroni-Spini in Florence where Fiamma tries to explain the extraordinary man who, 25 years after his death, still dominates his family. “I had a sudden friendship with my father when I was about 15 years old. He was severe, very good, I was a little afraid of him. But we had the same personality, the same mentality and way of working, kind of an affinity of temperament. “I was 16 1/2 when I started working with him, doing a little of everything. He believed in responsibility, that people needed to have faith in what they were doing. Even if I did something wrong he would say: ‘That’s fantastic but remember the next time …’ and then you’d want to do better.” There are already 15 grandchildren and she can see at least some of them entering the company; a few are already putting in a week or two each summer in the factories, checking for scratches, introducing shoes to boxes, “so they get the idea of what work is. It is the base of everything, in a good culture.” She’s the Marchesa Fiamma di San Giuliano-Ferragamo and – like most of the other family members – lives in a palace. But she will have no truck with the idea that her father was lowly born. “They were simple people but having no money doesn’t mean that you’re not a gentleman or a lady. You have that inside yourself. “Florence is a lady town; the refinement of the arts, the culture, they help you form yourself. My father was a great innovator in look and technique. We continue his principles: never sacrificing, never compromising. That is the heart of what he found. We are the protectors of his tradition.”

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Romania may raise Candu sales

A Romanian decision to expand its nuclear energy program could mean more business for the beleaguered Canadian nuclear industry, according to Romanian officials.

The Communist Party Congress in November decided to increase the number of power stations it will build and to accelerate their construction. Romania now plans to raise its nuclear generating capacity to 12,000 megawatts by 1993.

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. has a contract for two 600- megawatt Candu reactors that are now under construction and Export Development Corp. has enough financing approved to pay for two more.

The officials said only 3,000 megawatts of the planned nuclear capacity will be built with technology from the Soviet Union. The other 9,000 megawatts of capacity will conform to the Candu design, which uses natural rather than enriched uranium as fuel.

The 1978 and 1981 deals between Canada and Romania were intended to result in a transfer of technology that would eventually allow Romania to build its own Candu reactors. Romania must pay a royalty for the first 15 reactors it builds.

Romania would like to absorb all the technology, but although the Canadian content in the third and fourth units would be lower than that in the first two, there should be plenty of room for further Canadian exports.

Indeed, if the two countries can agree to specialize in different parts of the reactor, Romania will probably still be buying Canadian equipment by the time it builds its tenth reactor, a senior official said.

Romania is also interested in co-operating with Canada in selling Candu reactors in other countries, and officials suggested that its help could be particularly useful in Communist countries and others with which Romania has good relations.

Nuclear co-operation will be one of the topics on the agenda for Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu as he begins a four-day Canadian visit tomorrow.

Although the first two Candu deals have been marked by Romanian demands that Canadian suppliers accept Romanian goods instead of cash, officials said Romania is philosophically opposed to countertrade practices.

However, Romania also wants to keep its bilateral trade in balance, and admits it has a shortage of hard currency to pay for expensive imports such as nuclear reactors.

As a result, the $200- million in contracts awarded to Canadian suppliers last year have been matched by agreements to take $200-million worth of Romanian goods in lieu of cash over the next six or seven years.

In the future, Romania wants to sell more manufactured goods to Canada, including cars, tractors, electrical equipment, machine tools, clothing and footwear. What it wants from Canada are raw materials such as uranium, coal, mineral ores and asbestos.

In 1984, Canada exported $23-million worth of goods to Romania, including $11-million worth of turbines and $8-million worth of sulphur. It imported $47-million worth of Romanian goods, with clothing, aluminum and tractors heading the list.

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Having it both ways

In the stampede to the public trough, the deserving are often elbowed aside by those who decry the very existence of the trough.

We speak, of course, of some of Canada’s businessmen. Wind them up and hear their lamentations about excessive regulation, huge deficits and bloated government.

Fortunately, some of these distinguished citizens have recently demonstrated with persistence and clarity why such lamentations should be taken with more than a grain of salt.

Consider Jim Smith, president and chief executive officer of Domtar. Very categorical he sounded last August about Ottawa’s deficit. He and his friends at the Business Council on National Issues suggested that Ottawa slash spending by between $5-billion and $10-billion a year, per year, until 1988, using most of the savings for deficit reduction. ”Further expansion in the deficit . . . will be detrimental to the Canadian economy,” they declared.

As for industrial incentives, well, Mr. Smith and Co. couldn’t find anything positive to say. ”here is little evidence to suggest that government grants are needed to support viable industries and investment activity,” declared the BCNI task force of which Mr. Smith was a member.

Yet here we are in April, and guess who’s at the trough? The friendly deficit-slasher and scourge of industrial subsidies himself, Jim Smith.

Last month, Mr. Smith’s company announced it needed $200-million from the federal and Quebec governments. Without the money, Domtar could not proceed with a $1.2- billion modernization of its plant at Windsor, Quebec. Without modernization, the plant would fail and 700 jobs would be lost.

This galling prospect galvanized groups in Quebec to jump all over Sinclair Stevens, the minister in charge of industrial grants. Mr. Stevens had vetoed aid to Domtar because the company boasted a healthy balance sheet, possessed excellent financial backing and could probably finance the remaining 18 per cent of the deal it demanded of government.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, however, bids above all else to secure his party’s position in Quebec, an elementary observation presumably not lost on Domtar. Reducing Mr. Stevens’ credibility to a pulp, Mr. Mulroney reopened the dossier. The result – a $159- million, 10-year loan whose interest will be absorbed by Ottawa and Quebec. The estimated cost to the federal treasury is $38-million.

This deal certainly beats giving Domtar the $117-million it originally demanded of Ottawa. But the deal means that money cannot be used for other industrial projects whose backers may legitimately have needed federal help. It will also encourage other paper producers to seek federal subsidies, a ripple effect seldom considered by the groups demanding immediate help.

In fairness to Mr. Smith, his company has not been alone in clamoring for federal assistance. The car industry wants continued quotas on Japanese imports, the Canadian Commercial Bank was recently bailed out, the textile and footwear industries are screaming for continued protection, Petrosar’s new owner, Polysar, will soon seek federal money, Rolland (a Domtar competitor) may want federal help, and the list runs on.

If businessmen – and their tubthumpers on the financial pages of the nation’s newspapers – admitted they might need government help and dropped the deficit-slashing stuff, or if they preached deficit reduction but stayed clear of the trough, it might do wonders for their credibility.

As things now stand, free enterprise for the big corporations with political clout seems to mean the right to succeed in the good times and to demand and receive government help in the bad.

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Seeking out accessories

Now that you know all about the clothes we’re going to wear come fall, here’s the lowdown on next season’s most important accessories, the essential details that will spell up-to-date fashion.

Starting from the top, hats are a fall essential, the final punctuation to almost every outfit. Berets head the list, ranging from the classic disc shape in bright contrast colors, big, poufy velvet variations (at Kenzo), or oversized hexagonal shapes (Kenzo), to stiff-banded Highland berets, such as Betty Jackson’s. Then there are all those big, snood-like medieval-looking toques, best illustrated by Karl Lagerfeld’s giant fur bag-like toppers for Fendi. Add Russian cossack toques such as Valentino’s, especially in Astrakhan, fur-bordered calottes and dozens of fez-like variants, such as Valentino’s and Saint Laurent’s; plenty of matador hats (Tarlazzi) and umpteen equestrian-inspired riding helmets.

The super-size, all-enveloping, giant cowls and hoods, while they are very often attached to coats, sweaters, jackets and dresses, also work splendidly as a separate, optional addition. Azzedine Alaia’s, for example, were merely sensational when matched to thick- ribbed natural wool sweaters or in opulent fur, and I can’t think of a better warm-up invention for winter. Napoleonic tricornes stole the show at Lagerfeld and even at Chanel.

In Paris, evening calls for the most extravagant and fanciful frivolities, improbably perched atop even scalp-length hair; frothy concoctions made of snippets of lace, feathers and glitter. Great fun, super- feminine and flattering, provided you have the chutzpah to carry them off.

Hair, for the most part, is still resolutely short or anonymously chignoned, the better to showcase all the headgear listed above. When it has been allowed to grow longer, the style is ultra-simple and unfussy. Of course, there are exceptions, ranging from the frankly unkempt, to windmill effects, to flat crowns and curious winged extrusions – a singularly unflattering look you should give a complete miss to. Bleaching hair platinum blonde and cutting it into a stiff brush is another unhappy idea making unattractive inroads.

The newest makeup looks flat and somewhat mask-like – totally devoid of shading, contour or blush. The vampire-red lips have thankfully gone, replaced by softer, prettier and much more appealing rosy or peach shades. Valentino used plums and purples with a lavish hand, with fuchsia- shaded brow bones and ultraviolet eyes.

Jewelry is either non-existent or else gigantic, utterly and frankly fake. By universal acclaim, pearls are it, and nowhere were pearls more effectively or more extravagantly displayed than in Betty Jackson’s show, where lavish ropes of giant pearls were slung about with abandon, or shaped into giant heraldic crests or baroque brooches; or at Armani, where Butler and Wilson’s slinky pearl snakes glided across the bodices of cashmere sweaters or circled the waistlines of Directoire-style dresses. For Betty Jackson, Monty Don also produced chatelaines (these are making a big comeback) with giant keys and super-size, key-shaped earrings. Tassels are another favourite decoration (at Yves Saint Laurent and Bernard Perris), as are chains, often studded with glitter. Big hatpins skewer hats and lapels; giant pins look great clipped on to shoulders or on sleeves and paste military jewels and medals have lost none of last season’s appeal.

Coins are also much in evidence and, with the fashion accent firmly on the wrist, twin cuff bracelets are a favorite decoration.

Silver has a slight edge over gold, especially in Italy. Speaking of the wrist, the gauntlet glove, embellished with lace, filigree, fur, appliques, sequins or paste jewels is a must-have, as presented by Armani, Lagerfeld, Chanel and Montana, to name but a few of its advocates. Gloves in general are important.

Zippers, tassels and studs, metallic or jewelled, turned up frequently, especially at Dorothee Bis, Alaia, Ferragamo and Basile.

Sunglasses are a major accessory with Alain Mikli cornering the market on the more exotic examples, including some dangerously winged models for Complice and Montana – plenty of fun when played for laughs. Otherwise, the darker the better, with mirrored lenses and narrow wraparounds much in evidence.

As for shoes, they ranged from crepe or rubber-soled construction bootlets (Armani and Kenzo); spatted looks (Armani and Betty Jackson); alpine

footwear (Alaia and Montana) to the insubstantial, jeweled filaments perched atop sliver-thin heels that passed for shoes at Valentino. Similarly fragile footwear showed up at Lanvin, Ungaro and Zandra Rhodes, even with daywear. Of course, it’s daywear designed for women who get up at 4 p.m. – or, as one wag put it at Ungaro, for “Les Grandes Horizontales.” Tarty they may well be, but we women have always been pushovers for sexy shoes. The best boots, bar none, were designed by the Peter Pan of fashion, Kenzo, above-the-knee Robin Hood styles in soft, crushy, unlined suedes.

Patent leather is making inroads for fall in shoes, belts and handbags. Belts are frequently big and bold-buckled, used to hold in jacket fullness or to cinch the waist above a flared peplum.

Handbags are getting larger and thus considerably more practical. Chanel’s chain- slung quiltings are also back in favor.

There are shawls aplenty, generously wrapped or hanging loose, serape- style, matched or contrasted to ensembles, plus lots of lacy or chiffon scarves, jabots and cravats.

Legs are almost always well-covered with black or colored hose; sheer wools in bright colors or woven men’s wear patterns. A favorite look everywhere is the monochromatic top-to-toe effect – shoes, hose, gloves, handbag and hat exactly matched to the ensemble.

Socks, matched to the shoe or pant and roll-cuffed are the essential bridge between fall’s inescapable stirrup ski pant, and (preferably) flat shoes. Or, most successful of all, wear the ski pant with ankle or mid- calf boots. If you must wear them with high heels, color-match the pant, hose and shoe so there is no color break. Nothing looks less appealing or more ungainly than a too-visible stirrup or bits of visible flesh breaking up the streamlined length of leg.

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