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Shoes: A Love Story

Forty-six years ago, Wanda Ferragamo, widowed at age 38, was faced with a difficult decision: Should she take over the shoe empire that had been created by her beloved husband Salvatore, or sell it?

"I felt very down after his death. I had no direction and I was a little confused," Wanda says. "After about 15 days of rest in the mountains, I got my energy back. The energy gave me the spirit to fight for him. But I wanted to honor him, I really felt so strong that I said, 'Yes, we will continue.'"

She credits the technicians in the factory and loyal administrators in the front office for seeing her through her early stretch as the head of the company, which she now serves as honorary chairwoman. "I had not worked before. I had no preparation. I took care of a beautiful house and six children," she says.

2Fast forward to fall 2006 in Beverly Hills, where Wanda Ferragamo's three sons and a grandson joined a flurry of Hollywood stars who came out to celebrate Salvatore Ferragamo as the eighth recipient of the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award.

An accompanying photo exhibition celebrates the long relationship between Hollywood stars and Ferragamo. The first Ferragamo store opened on Hollywood Boulevard in 1923.

The company founder became something of a superstar himself, a master craftsmen of shoes renowned for his sexy high heels and innovative materials.

But for the founder's widow, Ferragamo is still a love story.

"Our first meeting - it's a long story that I love to tell," she said in a recent interview. "I was quite young, 18. I lived in my parents' house. In Florence, where we were both from, he was already established, already famous.

"My father invited him to be a sponsor of the poor children in the village. He (Salvatore) had already sent money from America to build a house for them. My father said, 'Please come back to see what we've done with your money.' He came to our house to say hello to my father. My father was a medical doctor and my mother died when I was 16, so I sometimes greeted guests. ... I was excited to meet him. I said, 'How nice it is to meet you, and thank you for your contribution.''

"He turns his face to his sister and he said, 'This girl is going to be my wife.' I didn't know English - I learned French in college. He said it in English so I wouldn't understand, but I knew it was something nice.

"After three months, we were married."