Made in Italy and NYU Stern: James & Salvatore Ferragamo

NYU Salvatore Ferragamo

When it comes to Italian high-fashion, names like Gucci, Versace, and Prada often come to mind. These companies, known for their quality products and timeless brands, are staples in both the fashion and business communities. Salvatore Ferragamo S.p.A., another Italian fashion company, is notable for not only their quality leather and fine wine, but also for their leadership, namely twin brothers and NYU Stern School of Business MBA graduates James and Salvatore Ferragamo.

All in the Family

James and Salvatore followed the footsteps of their father and company CEO Ferruccio, and grandfather Salvatore, who founded the brand in 1928. The company’s current structure features each of the founder’s six sons and daughters with a role on the board of directors, with other relatives also taking jobs within the organization.

However, the Ferragamo clan decided that only three members from the family’s third generation should be involved in the family business. These three members were required to have a university degree, an MBA, three years of working experience outside of Ferragamo, and English and IT skills. James and Salvatore accepted this challenge: Both graduated from NYU’s Stern School of Business with a BS in 1993 and again with an MBA in 1997.

What have the two Ferragamo heirs and Stern MBA alumni been up to lately? Both have been utilizing their strengths to push the Ferragamo brand to new heights in different ways.

Expanding “Made in Italy”

James is currently the Director of Women’s and Men’s Shoes and Leather Goods for the Salvatore Ferragamo Group. His responsibilities include overseeing all categories from bags to belts, with a focus on shoes. He briefly worked at Goldman Sachs before completing his MBA in 1997 and joining the family business. James was the first member of the third-generation Ferragamo’s to enter the business.

According to James, a big part of innovation is collaboration. Since 2010, all leather goods collections have been created side by side with the brand’s creative director, Massimiliano Giornetti. Together, James and Massimiliano have pushed Ferragamo into modern territory, while still respecting the brand’s heritage.

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“Together, we need to communicate Ferragamo’s creativity,” James told the South China Morning Post. “For Massimiliano, he pushes on the accelerator of creativity and creates novelty with the ready-to-wear. My role is to try and make sure that we have quality and never compromise on it.”

Ferragamo has always prided itself on being “Made in Italy” and James says that will remain the brand’s headlining message, even as it expands into new markets like China. “No matter what, all our products will always be made in Italy,” he said, doubling down on his decision to keep all production inside of Italy in the near future. “My father had a very rigid point of view on this. Italy, to us, represents a certain uniqueness, and people love this idea of artisanship.”

Resurrecting Il Borro

Instead of following the career trajectory of the rest of his family, Salvatore followed his true passion: wine.

“[My brother James] likes fashion, and I like wine, so it worked out perfectly,” Salvatore told The Drinks Business.

Since graduating from Stern’s MBA program in 1997, Salvatore has been tasked with expanding Ferragamo’s brand portfolio into wine and agro-tourism at Il Borro villa. The Ferragamo family purchased the Tuscan vineyard in 1993 and Salvatore has led efforts to restore the estate and innovate the wine production business, while always sticking to the family’s commitment to being “Made in Italy.”

“Fashion and wine are both a question of lifestyle, personal taste, and sensibility,” Salvatore told Wine Enthusiast. “When I was growing up, I was surrounded by a spirit of fine craftsmanship and careful attention to details that are the hallmarks of ‘Made in Italy.’ My family has always believed that this approach is the best way to express creativity, tradition and quality, and it’s true in both fashion and wine. For example, all of the grapes that go into our wines are carefully chosen by passionate hands that give each bottle its own character.”

In September, Salvatore revealed that Il Borro is producing an amphorae wine made with Sangiovese with the skins kept in contact with the clay vessel for one year. The clay is sourced locally and is made by a local amphorae maker. The wine “Unlike French oak, amphorae doesn’t give the wine notes of tobacco or spices, it focuses more on the fruit notes of the wine,” he said. Salvatore added that he is also experimenting with “a secret project” — a Chardonnay made with the same method.

Reflecting on NYU Stern

In 2006, James and Salvatore invited a group of Stern alumni to their flagship Fifth Avenue store. At the event, the Ferragamo twins were asked how studying at NYU Stern and working in New York helped them as they entered the business world.

“NYU helped me to balance my professional experience with my academic experience,” James said. “Living and working in New York City provided the opportunity to understand the practical application of what I learned, as both a graduate and an undergraduate, whether it was about finance, fashion, marketing, or advertising.”

“Studying in New York gives you the unique opportunity to learn in the business capital of the world and to be in contact with people from different countries, cultures, and businesses,” Salvatore said. “This is very important as I am promoting Il Borro estate worldwide, and it is crucial to understand, recognize, and respect different cultures when entering into any type of global business relationship.”

Fashion and Future at Stern

Recently, alongside the new Tech MBA, the Stern School of Business introduced the forward-thinking Fashion & Luxury MBA, which features several high-profile figures on its advisory board from the likes of Dolce & Gabanna, Tiffany & Co., Nike, Vogue and more.

For more information on the NYU Fashion & Luxury MBA, click here.


About the Author

Max Pulcini

Max Pulcini is a Philadelphia-based writer and reporter. He has an affinity for Philly sports teams, Super Smash Bros. and cured meats and cheeses. Max has written for Philadelphia-based publications such as Spirit News, Philadelphia City Paper, and Billy Penn, as well as national news outlets like The Daily Beast.

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