"MADE in Italy'' is a strength the Ferragamo family has always protected. With ever-growing demand from those who dream of Italian living, they have been proved right.
Leonardo Ferragamo, the fifth son of the late "shoemaker to the stars" Salvatore Ferragamo, recently met Shanghai Daily in town and emphasized that all the company's goods are 100 percent made in Italy to ensure the best quality - maintained since the first family factory was opened in Florence in 1927.
Ferragamo has spearheaded the company's drive into Asia and China is Ferragamo's No. 1 market, with 60 shops.
Though production costs for the Italian luxury house are much higher than for companies that have shifted manufacturing to Asia, the whole family decided to give up on high profit margin to maintain the value of goods "Made in Italy" and to think long term.
There are both emotional and rational reasons for their refusal to compromise, Ferragamo said. "My father is the pioneer who invented 'Made in Italy' in fashion, so we are very attached to that tradition. And in terms of quality and craftsmanship, Italy delivers the best."
The elder Ferragamo passed away in 1960 at the age of 62 and his wife Wanda and their six children took over the business. They developed the company into a global luxury brand with a family spirit.
"My father had a dream that his family would turn Ferragamo into a house of fashion which is what happened as everyone grew up and added a new dimension into the business," he said.
"Each of us has real passion for the business, along with integrity, determination, hard work and pride. Everything we do is very much coherent with what we are and what we feel."
The brand, worn by Marilyn Monroe and contemporary celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lopez, is tightly run by the Ferragamo family. In 2006, for the first time, someone from outside the family was brought in to run the business; Michele Norsa became the CEO of Ferragamo.
His father taught Leonardo and the other children the small details of shoe-making. Before he joined the family business at age 20, he and his siblings all knew how to make pair of shoes.
He started as assistant to the technical director of production and went on to create the men's wear division. In 1987 he become director of commercial operations, including Europe, Asia and South America.
His "love story" with Asia began on his first trip to Hong Kong in 1986 when he decided that "Ferragamo deserves much more in Asia." He consulted with the family and 10 days later he was back in Asia.
Ferragamo was one of the first Italian luxury goods companies to enter the Chinese mainland in 1993.
"I have a lot of respect for Chinese consumers because they are attentive, sophisticated and they can differentiate what a brand represents," he said.
Yachts and shoes
Apart from the family business, Ferragamo's passion is sailing, both competitively and for pleasure. He is chairman of Nautor Holding and of Nautor's Swan, the yard producing Swan yachts, famous for Finnish craftsmanship.
In Nautor's Swan, he found the same values embodied by the Ferragamo family luxury goods: innovation, performance, durability, comfort, style and quality. His background in luxury goods enabled him to successfully take the helm of Nautor's Swan in 1998.
"Incomparable value derives from the use of quality materials coupled with traditional craftsmanship, expert design and construction. These are essential to product credibility and generate customer loyalty in shoes as in yachts," Ferragamo said.
The yacht brand has evolved on an international level; last year was one of the best years for the brand and this year the yard is fully booked. Two new regattas have been added to the calendar and the brand is expanding in Asia and Russia.
"Working is my passion and I have had the opportunity to always work for things that I have passion for," Ferragamo said.
"Above all, I love spending time with my four children, ranging in age from 14 to 22. They all grew up with great respect for sailing and the sea," he said. And probably for shoes.