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Looking back at women’s shoes through history, it’s easy to see why classic versions find a certain pride of place. Fashion history is full of masterpieces which favoured comfort and gained cult status among celebrities, political figures, and even pop stars. Ferragamo’s Vara shoe is one such masterpiece. At a time when the height of the heel sealed one’s status, Vara with its mid-height heel catapulted into global consciousness.  Today celebrities such as Alexa Chung, Freida Pinto, and Emma Roberts remain loyal to this iconic piece of footwear. 

Image: Courtesy Salvatore Ferragamo Instagram
Image: Courtesy Salvatore Ferragamo Instagram
Ferragamo’s license to fabulous heels 

Salvatore Ferragamo, dubbed by many as ‘ the shoemaker to the stars’ created footwear for the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Greta Garbo, the Duchess of Windsor, and Queen Elena of Italy. 

Image: Courtesy Getty
Image: Courtesy Getty

 It was in the 1930s and 40s that Ferragamo started created masterpieces for the magnum opuses of American director Cecil B deMille, which started getting attention of Hollywood royalty. He had a knack for creating footwear that weren’t necessarily heels, and his passion manifested in his iconic cork wedges. 1956 saw another great prototype from the house of Ferragamo – cage heels dominating the market. Salvatore Ferragamo was not just giving women heels but was open to innovating in the true sense. But it was his daughter, Fiamma, who furthered the legacy and created a piece of footwear which aligned perfectly with the changing times. 

Image: Courtesy Salvatore Ferragamo Instagram
Image: Courtesy Salvatore Ferragamo Instagram
Vara Shoe – the icon 

Salvatore Ferragamo succumbed to cancer in 1960 and his daughter Fiamma di San Giuliano Ferragamo took over. Exposed to the business at an early age, navigating the changing market, and taking the legacy forward came easily to her. From the age of 16, she had been groomed by her father, but it was her creative bravado that shone. She showcased her first collection at the age of 19. 

1978 saw the creation of the iconic Vara shoe under the reign of Fiamma. Perfect for the fiesty working woman who was always on the go, the mid-height heel was a novelty in a market cluttered with high heels. Originally made in calfskin, Vara is an example of Ferragamo’s signature craftsmanship and innovation. With grosgrain bow on the toe fastened with a metal buckle and Ferragamo’s signature engraved in leather, the shoe gained instant popularity. However, the grosgrain bow was originally supposed to be in leather, but due to confusion at the atelier, the bow was made in grosgrain, and given its success, the same has continued till date. 

Image: Courtesy Salvatore Ferragamo Instagram
Image: Courtesy Salvatore Ferragamo Instagram

Vara’s production has not stopped over the past 40 years. From quilted leather to suede, the classic Vara has been created in a number of versions. In 2007, a new version, the Varina was introduced, a flat replica of the iconic Vara.

Olivia Palermo as a part of L’Icona project shoot. Image: Courtesy Pinterest
Olivia Palermo as a part of L’Icona project shoot. Image: Courtesy Pinterest

2013 saw Ferragamo celebrating 35 years of Vara – the event was marked by L’Icona, a new Ferragamo project which launched a new customisation service allowing all Vara and Varina aficionados to get their favourite piece of footwear created as per their requirement. As a part of the project, actors and influencers such as Olivia Palermo, Miroslava Duma, Lauren Santo Domingo, Chiara Clemente, Alexandra Richards and more were shot in a campaign wearing Vara or its flatter version, the Varina.

From chic sling backs to beaded heeled pumps, today, the idea of Vara has been translated into a number of versions. As a piece of footwear, it is not only a part of our current fashion vocabulary, but also an insignia of our times for casual and formal wear. Stylish and avant-garde, and at the same time comfortable and functional – these come together to create a charm that’s timeless.

Anupam Dabral
Sr. Associate Editor
It was while studying fashion journalism at London College of Fashion that Anupam developed a keen interest in the anthropological aspect of the discipline; for him, fashion only makes sense when seen in the context of its environment. He is always on the hunt for great stories, and in his spare time binge-watches films/shows starring Whoopi Goldberg, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.