Sustainability, as defined by the Brundtland Report (1987), is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainability for the Salvatore Ferragamo brand is “responsible fashion,” as it has been since the founding of the brand in 1927 by the renowned shoemaker to the stars of Hollywood; a true pioneer who experimented with innovative, natural and recycled materials, and used them in his collections.

In April 2019, the brand inaugurated ‘Sustainable Thinking,’ a new exhibition that explores Ferragamo’s approach to sustainability, from the pioneering spirit of the brand’s founder Salvatore Ferragamo to the company’s more recent experimentation with environmentally friendly materials and techniques.

An area of consistent concern for the brand, sustainability became formal in 2014, when it began producing annual reports on its corporate social responsibility initiatives by preparing the Corporate Sustainability Report (CSR) as per the international guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative. Its first CSR won the Aretè Corporate Social Responsibility Report award in the “large companies” category, the Business International Finance Award 2017 for ‘Report, Integrated Reporting, Financial Communication,’ and received the ‘Identity and Vision’ award from Biblioteca Bilancio Sociale.

The Sustainable Thinking exhibition is merely an expression of this long and deep commitment by the brand. It was designed by Stefania Ricci, Director of Museo Salvatore Ferragamo and Fondazione Ferragamo, with Giusy Bettoni, Arabella S. Natalini, Sara Sozzani Maino and Marina Spadafora. The exhibition examines the vital issue of sustainability through artistic or cultural works depicting its developments and interpretations.

“Sustainable Thinking addresses a wider public, taking on the burden and the honour of inspiring reflection on the increasingly crucial and contemporary issue of environmentalism, using the language of fashion, art and materials.

– The Brand

The exhibition presents the work of artists and international fashion designers who have given us their interpretation of a more mindful relationship with nature and its deep connection with technique, the use of organic materials and creative recycling, to highlight the importance of a collective commitment and a more enlightened way of thinking embraced by all.

Materials form the basis of the exhibition as it takes the visitor on a journey through time and innovation. The journey begins with the founder’s research into materials starting in the 1920s, including hemp, cellophane and fish skin. This is followed by tangible examples of circular economy in high fashion; where stories are presented behind luxurious materials that, after reaching the end of their first life cycles, are transformed into new quality products. There are installations created using ancient crafting techniques to present the art of recycling and the rediscovery of handcrafting traditions, both fundamental aspects of sustainable thinking. Moreover, the materials create layers of meaning, in which art is the tie between different cultural fields to be preserved in their diversity. There is an exploration of how smart technologies, through experimentation, lead to a rediscovery of natural fibres and a return to nature.

The exhibition will also feature some of the original shoes created by Salvatore Ferragamo from the 1920s through to the 1950s, preserved in the fashion brand’s archives. To commemorate this event, Ferragamo’s Creations have recreated five iconic shoes from the brand’s past. Each a faithful reproduction that celebrates the company’s founder.

Two special sections of Sustainable Thinking, curated by Sergio Risaliti and open to the public until July, are exhibited at two of the most important Florentine museums: Palazzo Vecchio in the Sala delle Udienze, a symbol of Florence and where the city government is located, and Museo Novecento.

‘Sustainable Thinking’ exhibition by Salvatore Ferragamo

Prior to the inauguration of the exhibition, a symposium titled ‘A conversion on sustainability and the future of fashion’ was held at Palazzo Vecchio in the Salone De’ Cinquecento, with the participation of major universities and fashion and design schools. The Symposium was moderated by Camila Raznovich and the speakers included: Sara Sozzani Maino (Vogue Italia) and Marina Spadafora (Fashion Revolution), Matteo Ward (WRAD) and Andrea Taborelli (Tessuti Taborelli), François Souchet (Ellen McArthur Foundation), Mauro Micillo (Intesa Sanpaolo), Jan Pachner (One Ocean Foundation), Francesca Vecchioni (Diversity Lab), Lucy and Jorge Orta (Studio Orta) and Mario Cucinella (Sos School of Sustainability).

The Sustainable Thinking exhibition will be open to the public until 8 March 2020 at Museo Salvatore Ferragamo.