The Right Shoes

Shortly after the Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay exhibition opened, I received a call from the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence. The exhibition features a show-stopping coat designed by Delaunay for the actress Gloria Swanson. The Ferragamo Museum suggested that they had the design for a matching shoe. Ferragamo moved to Hollywood in 1915, when he was just seventeen years old. By the 1920s, he was already known as “shoemaker to the stars,” and two of his most important clients were Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson. Delaunay’s coat is completely covered wool embroidery in interlocking rectangles reflecting the influence of both Cubism and African art. The shoes mimic the interlocking design, but in a patchwork of colored leathers. There is no evidence that the two designers ever collaborated or knew each other. But there is ample evidence that Ferragamo was aware of Delaunay’s work as well as that of the Italian Futurists, with whom she shared an intellectual rivalry. Moreover, both Delaunay and Ferragamo preferred strong contrasts of colors and used color blocking to enhance a sense of motion. For a deeper look at Delaunay’s influence on Ferragamo, check out the new Inspiration and Vision exhibition at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo—or the catalogue, if you can’t make it to Florence!

Sonia Delaunay. Coat made for Gloria Swanson. Private collection


Salvatore Ferragamo. Shoe designed for Gloria Swanson. Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Rome