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San Francisco resident Claudia Volpi is the biggest Superga super fan. So big that she opened up her very own Superga sneaker store on Fillmore Street several months back. (We were one of the first to spill the news.) Mind you, this was no easy task; many hoops were jumped through. But because of her love for the Italian brand, Volpi, an Italian herself, made it happen—and brought a much-needed shot of color and cool to Pac Heights' chain-heavy shopping drag.
Photo: Maria Del Rio
Although independently owned, Volpi works closely with Superga USA and Superga Italy and then curates the styles that work best for SF-ers. Her fun store features many exclusive European designs that weren't previously available in the US. And, of course, she also carries the signature Superga sneaker, the classic 2750, in a host of rainbow colors, as well as various fabric styles (metallic!) and patterns.
It was important to the mom-of-three to have a space where the whole family could shop so her bambino carries kicks for men, women and kids.There's a lovely play space for children in the back, and treats for furry members of the family. Grown-ups can sip espresso while they shop, and it's not unusual to find the occasional biscotti or gelato being served. "It's hospitality, the Italian way," says Volpi.
Recently we had a lovely date with Ms. Volpi, where we had a chance to pick her brain about the store and the new spring Superga collaboration with jewelry designer Jennifer Meyer, among other things.
Photo: Maria Del Rio
Please, tell us about your love affair with Superga sneakers.
I have worn Supergas my whole life, with a brief pause during my stiletto-and-suit days on Wall Street. I bought my Supergas in Italy and always tended toward the "wilder" patterns...though the classic navy and white were staples in my closet from about age 15. People would always stop and ask where I got my shoes. I often thought that someone was missing a huge opportunity by not opening a Superga store in NYC! Well, Steve Madden beat me to it in 2011. [Currently, NY and SF are the only two Superga stores in the US.]
Every person has a different experience—but for me, Supergas are cool, comfortable and stylish. Because the price point is affordable, you can have many pairs in your closet. What more could a girl ask for?! I had about 20 pairs before opening the store and have significantly more now, especially because my eldest daughter and I wear the same size.
Photo: Maria Del Rio
You originally had a job on Wall Street. How did you get from there to here?
I left sales and trading behind when I began having my children. I wanted to keep working but I needed flexibility so I founded a company that works with Italian companies—teaching them to market their products in the US. We represented architects, furniture designers/makers and hospitality groups. This allowed me to fuse all the things I loved into my work and to be able to move freely between NY and Italy, often with my kids in tow.
When I moved to SF in 2010, I felt lost. It was the first time in my life where people only knew me as someone's wife or mother and that was challenging. While proud of both, I needed my own thing, and working with clients in Italy became a bit challenging from SF. I was asked to join the Board of La Scuola and took on the task of expanding its very successful Italian pre-school into a K through 8. Again, in SF, people stopped to ask me about my Supergas so tha tickle in my brain came back. I truly believe that SF is a great market for this product. Our active, outdoor lifestyle and weather make Superga a great shoe year-round, plus there's a style for every flavor of San Franciscan.
How is your Superga store unique?
My store is unique in its design. I carry the collection that is available through Superga USA as well as many styles for men, women and kids that are imported directly from Italy. We have a pretty extensive men's section—with most of the styles being exclusive to SF outside of Europe. I know my male SF customer and he has received Superga overwhelmingly well! Also I sell complementary products that support our community values. For example, our reusable canvas tote shopping bags are made in the USA . We sold SF-based Petit Collage toys during the holidays and will soon be selling PACT socks. There are a few more collaborative projects in the works with local artists. Stay tuned.
Photo: Maria Del Rio
The Superga 2750 sneaker was originally designed back in 1925. Why do you think this style is still so popular 90 years later?
Well, it is a classic after all! The shoe is colorful, comfortable and extremely versatile. You can dress it up or dress it down. Pair the 2750 classics with your work outfit, feel fancy with them on a night out or wear them on a hiking trail. In addition, this shoe's ingenious design sets it apart from many other shoe brands. The canvas is easily washable, and a vulcanized rubber sole increases shoe longevity. If Audrey Hepburn were still alive she'd be wearing Supergas. I see it on Fillmore Street all the time— from a young schoolgirl in a uniform and Classic White 2750s to a mature sophisticated lady in a cashmere sweater, wool trousers and her Supergas. We run the gamut from toddler to senior citizen, casual to chic. They never go out of style!
Photo: Lju Chang
What are some of the bestsellers in your shop?
The Classic 2750 is definitely the customer favorite worldwide in navy, black, white and grey sage. But in our first month, we sold a tremendous amount of "fashion" styles, which tells me that San Franciscans are much more open-minded about their footwear (like me!). The men's and women's suede and leather styles—imported directly from Italy and exclusive to our San Francisco store—are flying out the door.
Are there any new trends or styles we should be looking for come spring/summer?
Adult velcro shoes are new for the season. Also, the 2790 COTROPEW style, an espadrille platform, is definitely something that should be on your radar and comes in florals, linens and cotton canvas. We will be bringing in quite a few slip-on styles for kids and men—including denim, super lightweight nylon and printed canvas. Our special spring/summer collection is with Jennifer Meyer and includes beautiful updates to our 2750 in linen, and a gorgeous studded leather hightop with her signature jewels.
Photo: Superga USA
Superga SF is located at 2326 Fillmore Street.