On this blue-skied April Friday, Maria Sole Ferragamo is working from home in the ever-charming Florentine countryside. "It feels like nature is telling us 'Thank you for finally giving me some peace!' I’ve never seen such beautiful sunshine at this time of year." Even during a global health emergency, her words are comforting and calm.
The young Ferragamo's story sounds like an Italian fairytale. She grew up in the arms of Tuscany's leather factories, exposed firsthand to craftsmanship at a young age. "I always knew I wanted to do something where I could make and create." Now, Maria Sole is an architect, designer and maker-at-heart — and she's busier than ever.
What's she been up to this year? "The first thing that comes to mind is designing my wedding dress with my friend and talented partner-in-crime Edoardo Mazzanti. He works behind-the-scenes with me on so many projects!"
Maria Sole Ferragamo wearing So-Le Studio earrings.
"And it’s been a really exciting year, full of beautiful changes and evolution," she continues. "I’ve clarified my vision and strategy for So-Le Studio. Rather than struggling to fit my work in a box, I've realized I can move across categories and labels."
Maria Sole's growing brand, So-Le Studio, dedicated to rescuing high quality leftovers and creating jewelry collections and one-of-a-kind objects, will soon have a brand-new studio in Milan. "We’re finally going to have a real headquarters!" You can feel the spark of excitement in her voice as she talks about future plans for her atelier. "We’ll be operating, prototyping, designing and welcoming clients from Milan. But the manufacturing will stay here in Florence." She's working on a new collection — hopefully out in September — as well as a new site with an E-commerce.
"We navigate a blue ocean of soft luxury."
"We navigate a blue ocean of soft luxury," she says. So-Le Studio believes in easy-to-wear pieces you can carry with you. "When you look at our pieces, they look heavy, rigid and cold. But when you wear them, they’re warm, light and soft because they are made of leather." So-Le Studio has been sustainable since day one. "We are autonomous and truthful. We produce few pieces because we don’t want to saturate the market."
Ferragamo believes in the magic word loved and understood by all creatives — purpose. "We create things that last and can be appreciated by those who choose to own them and wear them. And we will always stay true to our purpose."
Maris Sole Ferragamo at Villa Favard
If that's not enough, she's also been collaborating with museums, galleries and artists. Recently, she designed the trophy "Crisalide di Sole" for Museo Novecento’s contemporary art collector ceremony, Rinascimento +, and she’s working with Elisabetta Cipriani’s gallery in London. "We’re working on one-of-a-kind pieces that will hopefully be presented very soon."
"Jewelry doesn’t cover you like clothing, but when you don’t have it on, you feel naked."
And just like that, Maria Sole goes right back to gushing about her love for jewelry. "It’s considered an accessory, something secondary. But it has a primary role in creating your outfit." She talks about a feeling — that feeling everyone who accessorizes knows all too well. "Jewelry doesn’t cover you like clothing, but when you don’t have it on, you feel naked," she explains. "It protects you and makes you feel strong. You can wear the same white t-shirt, but transform it each time simply by changing your jewelry."
This infinite passion for jewelry is the reason why Polimoda chose Ferragamo as the new mentor in Fashion Jewelry. "I’ve had many mentors throughout my life. I’m always seeking opportunities to learn and grow." The Fashion Jewelry course has a critical outcome, and Maria Sole is clear about what she hopes to transmit to her mentees. "I want to help students create a critical discourse. I think it’s important to encourage them by raising questions, without giving them the answers," she says. "I want to raise issues and opportunities in their work, pushing boundaries in what can and can’t be done."
Maria Sole Ferragamo talking to Polimoda students during her Rendez-Vous
And that’s not all. "I will also offer students a pool of manufacturers with whom they will be able to work so they can make their sketches come to life in a professional context." Naturally, the connections will be based in Florence, Ferragamo’s hometown. "Florence teaches you to respect and recognize beauty. The value of history and heritage. The value of craftsmanship," she says. "Here you are able to actually establish relationships with craftsmen and work alongside people that work more with their heart than with their mind. Being immersed in this kind of reality can help your creative journey."
"I want to help students create a critical discourse. I think it’s important to encourage them by raising questions, without giving them the answers."
Maria Sole isn’t too worried about mentoring international study abroad students — she was one of them too. In 2016, she earned her Master's in London. "When you study abroad, you feel like you want to try and experience everything you can, but that’s not possible. You have to choose and to make a choice, you have to know yourself," she says. "Studying abroad makes growth and self-awareness deeper and stronger. If you are lucky enough to have this incredible opportunity, it can really make the experience more truthful."
The young talent could've easily jumped into the fashion world because of her last name, but she is a strong believer in education when it comes to fashion. "The design process is something you need to study and practice." She thinks developing your technical skills first is instrumental. "Fashion is also about function. To be a good designer, you have to be a good technician. Being in school gives you an opportunity to experience, fail and get back up. It’s like working out. It makes you strong and helps you enter the real world."
“Fashion is also about function. To be a good designer, you have to be a good technician. Being in school gives you an opportunity to experience, fail and get back up."
But the real world isn’t always kind to young designers. "I see opportunities in failure, even and especially when times get hard. I tend to think it’s happening because I need to grow and there's something I need to learn or discover." Her positivity is contagious and her precious words are already full of mentoring wisdom.
"Success is a journey, not a point of arrival," says Maria Sole, her voice optimistic and confident. "And I measure it with happiness and gratitude.” Warm, radiant and present — just like the sun.