You have said you consider your work a mission. How so?
You see, I had never worked in my life before my husband died. And I was a very young girl when I met him. At that time, women were taught only to play the piano and paint and learn about culture. That's all. Preparing to get married that was the path. So then I met Salvatore by chance because my father was a medical doctor and also the mayor of the village outside Naples where we lived. Salvatore, who was from the same village, had sent some money to the village, and my father wrote to him and said, "Please come to see what they have done with your money." And Salvatore immediately came—any excuse to come to the south of Italy! He came to my house with his sister, and my father was not at home, so I welcomed them. And I expressed my appreciation for what he had done for fashion, and he was very surprised, and he turned to his sister and said, "This girl is going to be my wife."
And so you married him?
My father was not happy about me marrying a man 22 years older than me. But it was a very happy marriage because Salvatore was a special person. He had a special manner. He was very distinguished, and he had very good style. You had six children when he died of cancer in 1960 at the age of 62? Yes. At the time, he was very, very famous because actresses used to go to him and order many shoes. We were very close as a couple. So he used to tell me all about the business. I knew it well, but I had never worked. And he had many dreams for the future, for the company, for the children.
What was the greatest challenge for you taking over?
I didn't think about myself at all whether I was capable or not. I just went at it with such energy, such goodwill. Also, the company was really organized, with very clever technicians for the construction of the shoes. And my children came to work for the company eventually.
How did you get such a strong sense of style?
I learned in my family. My mother was ambitious. I lost her when I was 16 years old, but I learned a lot from her.
What has changed the most in fashion since you began?
Oh, a lot! Sometimes people's taste seems too rich, too heavy. When Salvatore was at the height of his success, he was very minimal; he was very chic. Back then customers knew what they wanted. They were distinguished. Now they have less taste, and they get their ideas from newspapers and magazines. Perhaps we are afraid to be old-fashioned I don't know.
Do you still work every day?
Yes, because I cannot not go and because I am passionate and the time flies when I am in my office.
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