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From Store to Museum: Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci and Loewe

26 May, 2014

Galeria Loewe in Barcelona / Loewe

Taking advantage of a trip to Florence, home to the Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci museums, Barcelona és moda proposes drawing on these two cases and that of the Galeria Loewe in Barcelona to analyse the way in which these three luxury labels of worldwide renown recreate their history and tradition through the rooms in their museums.

History, innovation and quality as brand experience

Both the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum and the Gucci Museum lead you into the history of their founders right from the first room, explaining the origins of the labels and the innovations they delivered in quality, materials and technique. Many of the designs have become icons which over the years have gone down in fashion history and are symbols recognised around the world. At the Galeria Loewe in Barcelona, the approach to the exhibition is similar, with a journey through the label’s history and tradition, but here the accent is on the craftwork behind iconic pieces such as the Amazon bag. Domination of technique, quality and history are indispensable elements in these high-end labels to make us dream about and desire their products.

The Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, located in the basement of what has been the label’s headquarters since 1938, the Palazzo Spini Feroni, presents its founder as an innovative designer who made his name in the history of fashion for his interest in researching the perfect form of footwear and creating his own method. Innovations for which he was responsible include the use of unexpected materials such as raffia, cork, nylon thread and even plastic sweet wrappers during periods when materials were in short supply in World War II. These groundbreaking processes led to iconic shoes such as the nylon thread “Invisible” sandal or the “Kimo” sandal with interchangeable ankle socks. With regards colour, Salvatore Ferragamo went beyond black, brown and white to use bold, bright colours in the creation of elegant shoes with their own personality. The temporary exhibition The Amazing Shoemaker, running until 18 May, transports you to a magical fairytale world where the shoe is not a mere object but an entire symbol.

The Gucci Museo also begins with the story of its founder, Guccio Gucci, who worked as a lift boy at London’s Savoy Hotel, where he was fascinated by the elegance of the 1920s upper-class guests. This experience inspired him to create the leather goods and accessories which he would later manufacture in the workshop he was to open in Italy. On the journey over the museum’s three floors, Gucci presents the elements that have made the brand what it is today: the travel bags, the GG symbol, the evening gowns celebrities wear to the most important events in the world of film, theatre and music, and iconic pieces from the firm such as the Bamboo handbag, the Flora floral motif (which is reinvented every season) and horsebit moccasins. The Bamboo bag, created in 1947, was a huge hit for the company for its innovation and creativity, made using pigskin and bamboo in response to the shortage of materials during the war.    

When it comes to the Galeria Loewe, the experience is a little different. During the tour, although there are also historical pieces from the firm and the recreation of one of its most significant counters, the experience focuses more on experimentation with the label. Visitors perceive the brand’s added value through multimedia installations and elements linked to sensory experiences. The tree of textures, colour and finishes on the first floor shows the quality of the leather Loewe uses through tact. The hologram at the entrance provides a brief explanation of the craftwork behind the creative process of an Amazon handbag, one of the firm’s iconic pieces, created in 1975 and since reinterpreted in different colours and materials, as the interactive installation shows.    

Link with art

A link with art is one of the elements that has always been present in luxury labels, whether throughout history with artist collaborations or, in the case that concerns us here, through the dedication of spaces in their museums. Art is a key element of inspiration for brands based on creativity, design and the avant-garde. In these cases, historical examples can be seen in Salvatore Ferragamo’s collaboration with futuristic painter Lucio Venna to create advertising sketches, and the Gucci firm, which created the theme Flora in collaboration with the illustrator Vittorio Accornero. You can also see this relationship today in the case of the Gucci Museum with the space dedicated to contemporary art, or at the Galeria Loewe, which puts on regular temporary exhibitions. Here, the artistic presence is also demonstrated in the exhibition area, such as in the zone allocated to silk handkerchiefs, where there is an installation by the artist Daniel Wurtzel, ‘Flamenco Dancers’, which surprises you with the beautiful way that two pieces of organza dance to a flamenco beat.

Always a good time to make sales

Despite being a creative industry, the object of fashion is to sell, and the museums and galleries present another sales opportunity, whether through their location, such as the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, next to the store, or invitations to visit the shops, as is the case of the Gucci Museum and the Galeria Loewe. In this regard, the Gucci Museum offers a more comprehensive brand experience, as it is also home to a small store selling the label’s icons, a bookshop that specialises in fashion and design, and a café/restaurant. Galeria Loewe, by contrast, invites you to discover the store located on Passeig de Gràcia, a short distance away, although they also sell accessories in an almost imperceptible fashion in the museum itself. Is this a more sophisticated take on cross-selling?

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