Smooth As Silk
During my first week in Florence, I decided to get out and explore the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum.
Specifically, what I like to call the Silk Diaries spanning decades of inspiration from the founder and his family.
A different experience from an artistic point of view that might (or might not) entice men and women enthusiasts that enjoy clothes, shoes and fabrics.
Expect to see quite a lot of photos I took during my visit and maybe put it on the list when you visit Florence.
There’s going to be a lot of personal thoughts and reflections as well!
Let us begin!
Ferragamo Museum History
I would assume most of you have heard about Salvatore Ferragamo.
A famous (now) international designer brand that sells everything related to fashion from shoes to accessories.
Whether you like designers or not, houses like Ferragamo influenced international fashion quite heavily.
In many occasions, brands outgrow their history so much so people tend to ignore or forget the steps it took to get there.
Museums and exhibitions such as the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum try to remind us of this and maybe see things from another perspective.
For example, I have no desire to buy any Salvatore Ferragamo shoes however I can step back and appreciate the creative assembly of ideas and inspiration behind things.
The Museum opened its doors in 1995 and is literally in the heart of Florence right next to their massive flagship store.
Every year a new exhibition with a new theme is picked to focus on a certain aspect for about 12 months.
Today’s article explores the “Silk” exhibition which premiered on 25 of March 2021 until 18 of April 2022.
The Silk Diaries
Silk is a fascinating material and absolutely connected to Asia, trade, luxury and royalty.
A delicate material that we weave into robes, shirts, sheets and much more.
I could copy everything that the Ferragamo Museum describes in their website, but I will not.
All you need to know is that this Silk exhibition explores the attempt of Salvatore and later Fulvia Ferragamo to transform their shoe business into something international.
Instead of putting just shoes on women’s feet, they would dress her from head to toe.
This particular exhibition has heavy inspiration from exotic animals, birds, flora and fauna and translates it into designs and materials.
It’s really eloquently written and marinated with enough details to keep your attention.
Virtual Tour Experience
Before I show you the actual exhibition and experience I had, I might as well give you an important tip.
Whether it is impossible for you to visit Italy or prefer digital tours, Ferragamo Museum has a really cool feature.
At no cost to you, you can view the entire exhibition (at the time of writing) digitally in a 3d environment.
Simply visit this Virtual Tour Link which contains information and a proper real life depiction of the museum.
In fact, this is so good and I found out about it later that I almost scraped this article because it felt useless.
Beautiful, crisp photos and easy navigation make for a great and smooth experience.
Where Is The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum?
You can find the Ferragamo Museum at Piazza di Santa Trinita, 5R.
They are open every day from 10:30 to 19:30 including weekends, but excluding certain days and always depending on regulations.
It’s situated on the side of the large building that houses the flagship Ferragamo store.
As you go inside you will go down the stairs to reach the small reception that has usually 2-3 friendly staff members.
The entrance ticket will cost you 8 Euros (about $10) or half of that if you are a student.
Photos are allowed, but using flash or touching the exhibits is prohibited of course.
Via appointment, you can have proper physical and virtual guided tours.
Oh and since this is the new norm right now, make sure to bring a valid Covid Certificate and a mask with you.
Beginning The Tour
If this is your first time in such an exhibition and you don’t know what to expect, it will surely confuse you.
For example I went in not knowing that the topic is Silk.
So when you turn around and you see a bunch of wild animals and predators next to a ginormous stingray, you would be excused if you said “what??”.
The first entry room or lobby sets the pace, with a lot of text and helpful explanations around the walls.
After a while you get a sense of the scale this project had, because there are world maps, different animals and much more.
In other words, this is not just something local or small scale.
An introduction to silk, it’s origins and the establishment of the Como Textile Industry near Lake Como since the middle ages.
Generally, you will find some of the best mills and silk productions in Como (Ties & Pocket Squares) and other woven materials in Biela.
When I studied, they taught us that the waters there were so pure and clean, so the wool for example was phenomenal and calcium free.
Just before you go in the corridor to continue, there’s a small display desk with drawings of plants and handkerchiefs, a detail that shows up everywhere else.
Section 2 – Foulards
Room 2 thrusts you directly into the silk creations and the background of Fulvia Ferragamo.
One of the daughters of Salvatore and Wanda, Fulvia seeked to further expand on her father’s vision of transforming the brand into an international designer house.
There is a large portrait of her, a chic woman who really made things happen as you shift your gaze to the left.
A bunch of massive silk foulards, the one women used to wrap around their head is present.
You will see a lot of these, but each one of them is spectacular.
Maybe because I pictured a chic lady of the 70’s wearing them, or maybe of the vibrant bold colors.
Or it could be the rather exotic influence of the middle-east and central Asia.
Something I realized after I processed the photos and much later in my tour, was how the depicted animals were made of actual flower designs.
Spend some time looking at the exquisite paintings. There’s a lot of inspiration coming from bird life literally everywhere.
Section 3 – Inspirations
Room 3 is another different animal (pun intended).
It explores a lot of prints, mood boards, inspirations behind the creations of the Ferragamo collections.
Heavily inspired by birds, insects, Asian culture and an actual sense of scale.
How a flower is bigger than a shoe, or how a bee is towering over a castle.
It goes without saying that my favorite part of this exhibit is the real cuirass, an authentic Japanese samurai armor.
Ducks, hunting and exploration becomes art and print, visible on the scarves and ties hanging on the wall.
A lot of strong colors appear here, mostly red and yellow depicting that Asian influence.
It looks and feels like someone that actually cared about all these elements designed them and translated them into actual objects.
Also, did I mention parrots and penguins? Everybody loves them, including me.
There’s nothing that stood out specifically in the next room, it seemed like an extension of the previous one.
A bit more book and drawing heavy, with branching paths towards other sections.
I really wish I could actually check those books with their amazing drawings in detail.
Section 4 – Flowers
While the previous room did show flowers as inspiration, section 4 is an entire exhibit of them.
There is an explanation why Fulvia chose to create art and motifs from patchworks of flowers and leaves.
Nobody knows for certain when she began experimenting, but the inspiration was heavy from multiple sources.
For example, the local festivities and celebrations of Corpus Christi in the north and southern small villages, called L’infiorata.
Baroque aesthetics, colors and even the strange shoes her father Salvatore Ferragamo patched together.
Interestingly, the stylistic choice also has heavy inspiration from the same art style of certain cartoons from Eastern Europe.
Very interesting background, giving you an idea into Fulvia’s psyche.
There’s a ton of foulards and a few vintage flowers and vases, each with their own unique color palette.
Blue, red, yellow and pink dominate here.
Section 5 – Look Back Anouk
This is probably the only place I did not really bother with when I was there.
It’s not really a room, but instead a small corridor with a short film played in the corner.
There’s a very detailed explanation by the narrator or the wall description.
I should mention though that on the right there’s a super awesome, very old well.
You can watch the short film “Look Back Anouk” on YouTube.
Section 6 – Exotic Animals
Onto one of my favorite sections, simply because I adore big cats.
Leopards, jaguars and cheetahs or other spotted big cats are simply majestic.
Drawing and depicting animals has been a distinctive characteristic of humankind since the dawn of time.
This tradition continues with the scarves and silk foulards of Ferragamo.
Not gonna lie, these ones are incredible. Look at them from afar and they simply appear as animals.
Take a close look however and you will see the patchwork flower design underneath.
There’s also a hilarious 100% polyester printed hooded jacket that looks like it just came from a tropical island adventure.
And that cloak, I don’t even.
Section 8 – Shoes
You might notice there is no Section 7 (by the way this sounds like I am in prison or under martial law…).
The reason for that is because that room was under maintenance of some sort when I went.
To not spoil the surprise I will let you see that for yourselves, as it is available in the Virtual Tour.
Section 8 however was the one that I really hoped would be particularly interesting for me.
Turns out I was wrong as apart from a few ties, there is absolutely nothing about men in this Museum.
Before your wives pelt me with vegetables and boos, let me say I have absolutely no idea about women’s shoes.
I saw a few ghastly pieces especially on the displays of the Ferragamo store that baffled me.
At the beginning I had no idea why shoes were in an exhibition called “Silk” but it turns out some of the accessories had shoe designs on them.
I suppose you should empty your mind when you enter that room and simply admire the creations.
Section 9 – Decades
The final exhibit is a very interesting one to say the least.
Every decade presented an opportunity to explore all of the patterns and designs of all the previous sections from a clothing perspective.
There are quite a few chic versions of clothes in there, from dresses and trench coats to trousers and shirts.
Probably the most iconic piece of the exhibit is the chance to see the wooden lasts of famous people.
Rita Hayworth, Sofia Loren and Ingrid Bergman are just a few that have their personalized lasts in there.
What a lovely moment to be able to witness this, even if those people mean nothing to you.
The point is that someone with care and knowledge, sat down and took their measurements and created a custom wooden mold of their feet.
Before I close up this article about the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, how would I sum up my thoughts?
I suppose the real question is “Is it worth the $10 admission fee”?
If you are a man and expect to see tailoring and welted footwear, the answer is probably no.
However, if you are more interested in understanding the mentality, thought process and steps that go into making an item, it is worth it.
This is a short trip and at points can feel a little repetitive with dozens of scarves and foulards and similar color palettes.
But the whole mysticism and sheer creativity that takes a flower and weaves it into a silk pattern is beautiful.
Take your wife, spouse or partner and definitely skip an expensive tourist trap meal to attend the museum.
Can’t visit Florence? Then you have no excuse not taking the Free Virtual Tour.
And that was my tour of the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum and specifically the “Silk” Exhibition.
Was it worth a full article? I think so as it brings something fresh and unusual to the blog, plus my thought process while going through it.
This tour reignited my curiosity about Salvatore Ferragamo Men’s Shoes and specifically their Tramezza Line.
After looking online and seeing how overpriced and ghastly they look, I am considering taking one for the team so I can review them for you.
Would you like that? Or did you like this article and would like to see more?
Let me know in the comments down below!
Thank you for reading,