Superga's Lorenzo Boglione on why the best of the brand is yet to come
Who do you think of when sneaker brand Superga is mentioned? Adidas has Kanye, Nike its Kobes and Jordans. So then, is it Alexa Chung, of which the Brit It-girl's tomboy sensibilities sold countless of soles? Or its current campaign star and model Pyper America of the Smith clan who is known for winning the genetic lottery. Perhaps, its Italian roots come to mind.
Superga's story is what Lorenzo Boglione is keen on defining. Established in Torino, Italy in 1911, the people's sneaker label is not short on history — neither is it lacking in appeal or quality. But what has gone amiss is a significant chunk of its heritage. Before BasicNet acquired Superga in 2006 (Kappa is also one of its subsidiaries) — turning the company around from bankruptcy and going on to dominate with the coming-of-age sneaker for folks the world over — it was the shoe that many a tennis great clinched their championship titles in.
Adriano Panatta took home 1976's French Open in Superga Sport, and so did Ivan Lendl with the Grand Slam a decade later. A feather in Superga's cap and a tale that Boglione, the sales VP at Superga's parent company, would love the brand's consumers to be privy to today. Which is why amidst the high-speed collaborations they're churning out (Disney is next), Superga has in the last year revived its Sport line — connecting the dots of a narrative that's been eroded over the years.
In town ahead of their third store opening in Singapore, Boglione talks to Buro 24/7 about the surrendipitous relevance between Superga Sport's relaunch and the burgeoning sportswear trend in fashion, how a pair of sneakers goes from prototype to store, and the sporting legend's shoes whom he'd like to walk in just for a day.
What makes Superga proudly Italian?
I would like to tell you a story to illustrate why we think and believe that it's a piece of Italian history. When I was around 10 years old, I'd go to my to grandmother's house wearing gym shoes. They could be Nike, Adidas, or any other sneaker brand, and she would always say, "Lorenzo, when you come over, you can't wear Supergas." I said, "But Grandma, I'm not wearing Supergas. I'm wearing Kappa," for example. And she goes: Tennis shoes are Supergas. What I'm trying to say is that Italians from the older generation acknowledge any kind of gym or tennis shoes as Supergas. From the 1930s to the 1970s, Superga was the "only shoe in Italy". Every country had its own sport shoe. Germany had Adidas, France had Le Coq Sportif, and Italy had Superga.
It is a great time for sporting brands given the climate for collaboration with fashion labels. As Superga recently revived its Sport line, what direction is the company planning to take?
We saw that there the was trend growing and at the same time, we felt that we were not giving our customers the full Superga story. With personalities like Alexa Chung who fronted our campaigns, it gave people a chance to interpret Superga sneakers in a more fashionable way, which led to a lot of women wearing the shoe. But, we saw that we didn't have a lot of traction from men. There's no real male celebrity that helps to sell shoes or have the influence we want. You do have the rappers, but who is the male equivalent of Chiara Ferragni? That, and the fact that we were not expressing the full potential of the brand given that our archives are packed with sporting heritage that have beautiful stories. Like Panatta, Lendl... we couldn't let them sit in the archives without doing anything and so, we started to work on it given it was great timing too, from a strategic perspective.
Will the brand consider working with a current sportsman for the line?
No, because we don't intend on releasing shoes meant for sports today. It's a heritage thing, at least for the near future. But I'd never say never (smirks).
You guys are also known for collaborations, and there are Disney tie-ups coming soon. What should fans be excited about?
We've been working with Disney and its subsidiaries — like Marvel — for a while now, and we've always felt that the white Superga sneaker is easy to interpret. It could reflect Disney, Gosha, Max Mara; anybody can interpret a Superga sneaker because it's simple, clean and elegant. Kids love Disney and Marvel and it's good to get them exposed to the brand at a young age, and the most surprising thing is that many adults love it too. When we did Star Wars, the reception was crazy. We're really excited about what's to come.
What plans does Superga have for Asia and Singapore in the near future?
What I can reveal is that we're opening a third store in Singapore soon [at Westgate]. We have not been in China for many years, but we're working on stuff there in the coming months — we'll be focusing a lot on China.
Are there differences in consumer behaviour within Asia?
The developed countries and developing countries consume differently. Superga in Singapore is the price of a steak. It's easier for people here to buy a few pairs for options, and you speak to the consumer in a different way as it's an easy purchase. When you see Louis Vuitton and Gucci all around, Superga is cheap in comparison. But in Indonesia for example — with exception of the small percentage that can afford as many pairs as they want — a pair of Supergas is almost an investment. It might cost 20% of their monthly salary, so they think of it differently. In South Africa, we speak differently to customer segments due to that disparity. At the end of the day, I'd say that it shapes the language we use to communicate, and that Superga is a totally different experience for people across countries.
How many Superga shoes do you own?
I don't keep track as I have so many! When we do a new model, it gets dropped on my desk and I'll test them — give it back after a few weeks so they can see where the wear and tear is. I'll tell them if I encountered any problems and how the shoe can be better. We have this process with every new model that we do. As everyone's feet are different, we have many people in the company testing new styles and technology. I then keep the ones I like!
Do you remember your very first pair?
I remember it to be a little sandal for children, but we don't have it in Singapore. That model is still made in Italy by the way, and it's the bestseller there! We can sell 20 pairs a day in summer and all the kids in Italy wear it. We're making a version for adults soon because it's been requested quite a bit. The shape is cool again.
How long is the test drive on a prototype before it goes into market?
We work quite a bit in advance. At this time, our distributors are looking at the samples for spring/summer 2018. Now, we have prototypes coming in and out and even when the orders arrive, we continue testing. We have machinery that test drive them too; robots to evaluate the durability of the shoes.
The saying goes that you never know what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes, so whose shoes would you like to walk in for a day?
It's difficult to just pick one, but as I'm passionate about sports, I'd love to be in the shoes of a sports legend. Lately, everyone's talking about Roger Federer. He's had a great comeback and has a beautiful family. It'll be amazing to be in that situation for a day. But also, I'd love to be in the shoes of a politician — a head of state — with huge responsibilities. I want to see the world in a different light; be privy to knowing what actually happens. It'll be interesting to go beyond everyone's interpretation of world affairs and be in the room where decisions are made. Also, an astronaut. That kind of crazy things are fun. But first, Roger Federer.
Shop Superga in Singapore at 501 Orchard Road, B2-04, Wheelock Place, and 1 Harbourfront Walk, 02-73, VivoCity. Superga's third store will be located at Westgate. Also available online.
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