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High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email email@example.com to buy additional rights. When Salvatore Ferragamo died suddenly and prematurely in 1960, he was famous for inventing the cork wedge and the steel-reinforced stiletto heel, cheap Ferragamo Belts but the company was making just 80 pairs of shoes a day. His widow, Wanda Miletti, was only 38 years old with six children aged from 17 to two. Ferruccio Ferragamo, who was 14 years old, remembers the period as “a tragedy, it was a crisis for the company, he was a creative genius and it was a one-man company. “When he was gone, we thought everything was gone; instead I think we got stronger, we got very united by the tragedy,” he says. “My mother – I don’t know where she found it but she found a lot of energy. And we didn’t just produce shoes we produced children, so now we have a very large company,” he adds. Mr Ferragamo, 69, puts the success of the company down partly to the innovation of his father, who filed more than 350 patents on shoe design, – the company archive houses drawings of 14,000 different shoe styles – and a group of “faithful” external managers. The Ferragamo business now ranges from women’s and men’s shoes to clothing, handbags, scarves and ties. But he admits that at the centre of the business remains his mother, who has been the driving force behind the family. In conversation Mr Ferragamo, who is softly spoken despite his princely mien, refers frequently to her. “She was a second pioneer,” he says. When the company listed a third of its shares on the Milan stock exchange in July 2011, Mr Ferragamo stepped on stage to hug his mother as she wiped away tears, Salvatore Ferragamo Belt talking of how proud she was of her family’s achievement. At the insistence of Signora Wanda – as the formidable Ms Ferragamo, now 93, is universally known – all family members are paid the same, and have the same portion of company shares. Mr Ferragamo says at first he thought “it was very unfair as I had more responsibility”. But ultimately, he realised clear rules would help the company to thrive. The rules have extended into the third generation – where management studies show family dynasties typically fail. A maximum of three Ferragamo family members from the third generation are allowed to work in the business, and only if they have proved they are asuitable fit and well enough qualified.