A Signature Ferragamo Clasp Becomes a Gravity-Defying Heel

When he was 9 years old, Salvatore Ferragamo borrowed some tacks, thread and canvas from a local cobbler and stayed up all night making a pair of white shoes for his sister’s first communion. By 12, he was running his own shop in Bonito, the Italian village outside of Naples where he was born, but his big break came later when, after emigrating to America in 1915, he started producing cowboy boots and other footwear for directors, including Cecil B. DeMille. The designer went on to become inextricably tied to Hollywood’s golden age, creating unforgettable pieces for Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.

After Ferragamo’s death in 1960, his wife, Wanda, who had no formal training, took charge of his empire with the help of the couple’s eldest daughters, Fiamma and Giovanna, and eventually their four other siblings. In the late 1970s, Fiamma created a handbag as a gift for her mother, featuring a horseshoe-like clasp that would become known as the Gancini — in Italian, a gancio is a small metal hook. The inspiration for the motif, which mimics a Greek omega, came from the ornate wrought-iron gates of the medieval Palazzo Spini Feroni, Ferragamo’s headquarters in Florence, as well as from the iron tie rings once used for tethering horses along its facade. Ferragamo presented the first official version of the Wanda bag, with the clasps on either side of its boxy top handle, in the fall 1988 collection. Since then, the Gancini has appeared on watches, belts and shoes, even as a print on ties and scarves.

For his spring 2023 debut as the brand’s new creative director, the 27-year-old British designer Maximilian Davis took inspiration from its founder’s early days as a shoemaker to the stars, playing off hues such as the cherry red beaded pumps Ferragamo made for Monroe in 1959. Davis revitalized archival classics with a minimalist and exacting twist, among them the original Wanda bag, which reappeared in four new versions, with Gancini hardware punctuating its high-shine and dégradé finishes. He then took the symbol one step further, using it as a base for his new Elina sandal — with an upper made from smooth nappa leather suspended over a matte gold or lacquered Gancini heel. With the mule’s curvaceous silhouette and rounded heel, its construction seems to defy gravity, making its wearer look like she’s walking on air. “It was about looking into the archive and establishing what could be redefined to become relevant for today,” Davis said in the show notes. “I want each piece to feel playful but also desirable as an object. To stand on its own.”

Photo assistant: Kyle Aaron Lacy

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