“Shoemaker to the Stars’” son receives honorary KSU degree


Leonardo Ferragamo, fashion CEO and designer accepts an award for his induction to the Fashion Hall of Fame and Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. Photo by Thomas Song.

Yelena Tischenko

Leonardo Ferragamo, son of late fashion designer Salvatore Ferragamo, traveled from Florence, Italy, with two of his children to accept his honorary Kent State degree.

J.R. Campbell, director of the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising and Leonardo Ferragamo, CEO of Palazzo Feroni Finanziaria S.p.A, the family’s holding company, first met when Campbell was in Florence. From there, the two started talking about collaboration with the company and Kent State.

Salvatore Ferragamo created his internationally renowned design house in the 1920s and he quickly became the “shoemaker to the stars.” Since his death in 1960, his high-end shoe collection has grown to include handbags, accessories, menswear, shoes and timepieces, in large part to Leonardo Ferragamo’s efforts.

The collaboration between Kent State and Leonardo Ferragamo culminated Thursday with Ferragamo receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the College of Arts and the College of Communication and Information. He was also inducted into the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising’s Hall of Fame.

“I don’t think I deserve the award, but I welcome it with open arms,” Leonardo Ferragamo said. “I’m honored to be here, and I thank everyone that made this possible. I’m honored to be alongside all the other designers in the Hall of Fame.”

Campbell said Leonardo Ferragamo has provided financial support and partnered with Kent State’s study abroad program in Florence.

“What I’m most excited about exploring further, personally, is the idea of some sort of Ferragamo summer series in Florence,” Campbell said. “That is a really exciting concept to extend what we do there and can be specialized as well as attract people from all over.”

Campbell said Leonardo Ferragamo was curious to work with fashion and CCI students for reporting on events, commentary or otherwise. From there, it was clear he was interested in connecting with the university and possibly the Kent State University Museum.

“One of the things that they have as part of the original headquarters is a Ferragamo museum where they house the archives for all the original designs that Salvatore created,” Campbell said of the exhibition that has been shown in museums throughout Europe. “We are interested in finding more about it so ultimately we can show the exhibit in the museum. It’s all very tentative right now, but (there’s a) potentially great collaboration.”

Leonardo Ferragamo delivered a speech at Rockwell Auditorium early Thursday afternoon, explaining how his father built the fashion house from scratch and developed it into today’s company.

Later in the evening he was inducted into the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising’s Hall of Fame. The presentation resembled a commencement ceremony with remarks from President Lester Lefton, Provost Robert Frank and Campbell. Two senior students presented Ferragamo with a glass plaque.

Emily Orians, senior fashion merchandising major, said his arrival was a chance to see how the Florence program has grown. She said the ceremony made her realize the impact the program could have on Kent State students.

Nick Nero, junior fashion merchandising major, said Ferragamo seemed very honored to be at Kent State to accept his award.

“My favorite part was how humble Mr. Ferragamo seemed to be, despite what he does on a daily basis,” he said. “I think the effect of him coming to Kent was huge. A lot of students seemed very interested and proud of the fact that he was here.”

Contact Yelena Tischenko at [email protected].