Every week a year here’s a necessity,” says the tall, bronzed 39-year-old designer, who has also been in command of Ferragamo menswear since 2004. “Positano has been a part of me and my family forever. Nothing changes.”
Well, almost nothing. Like everywhere else, Italy, land of la bella figura, has become a casualty of the casual, with flip-flops and T-shirts in abundant display.
“I’m not a snob, but I wish to see people in shoes,” sighs Giornetti, a somber yet loquacious man who grew up in Tuscany and studied fashion in Florence. “And I’m nostalgic for the times of jackets, ties, and loafers. Even in summer, Italy has always been known for a chic attitude. So in fact I like to see shirts which can be tucked in.” It is no wonder his resort collection is slightly formal. Giornetti envisioned it for the worldly woman he remembers seeing on family holiday in Positano in the 1970s.
“As a child, I remember elegant women in colorful headbands with bathing suits under little dresses,” Giornetti says because the photo shoot moves from his hotel all the way down to the Piccola Marina. “You continue to see some people coming in off their boats here today and their style is still very chic.” Indeed, the models in this resort collection look the part in fitted day jackets with leather piping, striped knit dresses, flowing blouses, luxurious trousers, and cocktail dresses in tangerine, violet, and black, all paired with classic high-heel sandals and white leather bags and belts. They harken back to a time when jet-setting meant dressing up—and are a robust stab at Giornetti’s ultimate goal: to reinvent Ferragamo as a serious fashion label the way Missoni, Bottega Veneta, and other quiet luxury brands have in recent years.
“To me, luxury is freedom,” Giornetti says. “It’s about being a free spirit who can express herself, and it is about what’s playful, colorful, and detailed more than minimal.”
Playful, not minimal would certainly describe the shoes designed by Salvatore Ferragamo, who founded his company in Florence in 1928 after returning to his native Italy from California the year before. For eight years in Santa Barbara and Hollywood, he made custom shoes for stars including Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Joan Crawford. They weren’t just well-crafted and form-fitted—they were extravagant feats of imagination. Dorothy’s ruby slippers were among them, as were shell-shaped soles and 18-karat-gold sandals. In the 1930s, when good leather was sparse, Ferragamo experimented with cork and hemp to create his original wedge heel. For years, he was the go-to shoe guy in Italy for Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, and Sophia Loren, who came to the Palazzo Spini Feroni in Florence, which Ferragamo had bought in 1938 as his company’s base of operations.
Fast-forward to Ferragamo, circa 2010: On the roof of Manhattan’s Standard Hotel one evening this past June, Giornetti is attending a launch party for Attimo, Ferragamo’s seductive new fragrance. He has just returned from Hong Kong but looks more invigorated than jet-lagged, and, of course, impeccable in a sleek black suit of his own design. While guests arrive for dinner in a brisk summer wind, a gaggle of pretty young things, including Lady Alice St. Clair Erskine, Gaia Repossi, Fabiola Beracasa, and Chiara Clemente, preen in Ferragamo’s fall collection, creating a sunset tableau vivant in floor-sweeping dresses and high-waisted skirts in luxe, shimmery fabrics. This, his first collection as head of women’s wear, referenced a subtle ’70s look—something between Annie Hall and Jackie O.—in a rich palette of chocolate, chestnut, sienna, and gold.
Dree Hemingway, the face of the Attimo ad campaign, sits on a waterbed (how ’70s!) wearing a sparkling silver gown and waxes nostalgic—something that takes some thought for a then 22-year-old. “My first pair of fashion shoes were vintage Ferragamos,” says the daughter of Mariel and granddaughter of Ernest. “They were silver—like my dress—and they were two sizes too small for me, but I bought them anyway.” Representing the older generation, Giovanna Ferragamo, the corporate’s vice president and daughter of its founder, is sipping from a wineglass in a vintage Ferragamo red sequin tunic of her own design. She is enjoying seeing a brand new generation in Ferragamo, and, for that matter, anything else they choose to wear. “Lately, fashion isn’t so planned,” she says, blowing smoke toward the Hudson River. “It’s more about an individual mood.” Her gaze goes past the guests to a well-dressed Statue of Liberty holding court over New York Harbor. “Why is she not wearing Ferragamo shoes?” she asks.