Shining seas: a chat with Nautor’s Swan chairman Leonardo Ferragamo
The yacht magnate speaks exclusively about his 23 years in charge, and the success of this year’s Swan Tuscany Challenge
Leonardo Ferragamo is a man with a crystal-clear interpretation of everything he touches. You would expect as much from a son of Salvatore Ferragamo – founder of a fashion retail empire – who forwent the chance to continue his sartorial lineage in order to pursue his nautical passions, purchasing Finnish luxury yacht builder Nautor’s Swan in the late 1990s.
“When I bought Nautor’s Swan in 1998 my dream was to make a great brand out of it,” he tells Tempus. “I decided to invest in this iconic brand with pride, confident of the opportunity to evolve the brand internationally.
“At that time the company was representing – and still represents – timeless excellence, embodying a perfect union of style, comfort and performance.”
Coming from a fashion background, Ferragamo seems an unusual choice for the head of a major yacht brand, abut he has harnessed his passion for boating and all things nautical as a means of forging a meteoric path with Nautor’s Swan.
“For me, fashion and sailing are connected on several levels,” he says. “In my life they coexist in a very balanced way; both share the same values of craftsmanship, innovation, performance, durability, comfort, style, quality and timeless excellence.
“I was very young when my brother Ferruccio first took me on a sailing boat, his Flying Dutchman and I immediately fell in love with this sport,” he adds. “From that moment on I have never stopped sailing, both in regattas and for the pure pleasure of sailing with family and friends. I have always had a soft spot for Swan yachts, namely for the extraordinary skill of the Finnish craftsmen, so in 1988 I bought my first Swan 51 and, 10 years later, I decided to invest in the shipyard.”
So, what is Ferragamo’s vision for the firm? Swan has built more than 2,000 yachts since its founding in 1966 and has become famed for its high-end, cutting edge vessels – and Ferragamo is looking to continue this trend with his recent push into the powered yacht market.
“We entered the power yacht marked with Swan Shadow last January, and more is yet to come,” he says, noting the firm is “working tirelessly in research and development of new innovative solutions to offer on board and ashore, and in the evolution towards the future to make this brand stronger and stronger”.
Nevertheless, there is still a large focus on comfort, luxury and variety. “Today, Nautor’s is a 360-degree brand,” he says. “When an owner chooses Nautor, they enter into a completely dedicated world; we have a charter and brokerage branch for those moving the first steps in the sailing scene or willing to upgrade; the yard for building their dream boat; the ClubSwan Racing for the sportier clientele and a Global Service to be with them 24/7, wherever they are.”
Ferragamo is also a man with his finger on the pulse, claiming that the current Covid-19 pandemic has had an “unexpected impact in the yachting industry”.
“The boat has become a way to escape, offering the possibility to sail in an open sea, far away from the noises of the world and offering a feeling of freedom; a yacht has become the perfect tool with which to sugar coat this trying time.
“Boats are becoming more and more ‘home- like’, with innovative solutions focused on high performance values, competitive sailing potential, but also comfort, style and luxury materials.”
And this competitive sailing potential is a huge portion of Nautor’s MO, hosting spectacular racing events across the globe, including the Swan Tuscany Challenge 2021, which took place in May.
“Sailing is in Nautor’s DNA and since the beginning and the brand’s thrilling regattas are the most eagerly awaited events by its owners,” Ferragamo says. “The 2021 edition was particularly important for us. Together with the One Design fleets participating from 10 countries and racing in the beautiful bay of Scarlino, the 2021 Tuscany Challenge marked two other important moments for the brand; the worldwide premières of the Swan Shadow, the first power yacht with Swan signature, and the Swan 58 designed by German Frers.
As someone who made the hop from clothing to sailing, Ferragamo is a man with an eye for details and specificity. But, when I ask for his favourite memory of sailing – one that has driven his career in yacht building – his answer is charmingly imprecise.
“Well, I have loads, from my first days at sea with my brother Ferruccio, to the days spent with my family and friends, to racing with my team... how much time do you have?”