Superga makes big entry into Hong Kong

Italy's popular sneaker launches with a showpiece as grand as its ambitions for China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 April, 2013, 10:51am

With so many brands opening flagship stores in Hong Kong these days, it can be difficult to stand out. Launch events have a tendency to fall into the trap of uniform blandness as labels seek popular appeal.

Playful Italian sneaker brand Superga, however, isn't so concerned with pleasing everybody, and instead has launched its first store in Hong Kong with a Giant Shoe Installation, featuring the world's biggest Superga's classic 2750 shoe, and an equally huge party on the harbour.

The model is set to land in The Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest sneaker.

"The real star of the Superga collection is the 2750. It is iconic and recognised more than any other, so we thought it would be clever to launch on that style," says Marco Boglione, president of Italy-based BasicNet Group, the owners of Superga.

Measuring six metres high, two metres wide and three metres long, the shoe replica will take pride of place on the waterfront outside Harbour City from April 12 to May 4. Giving it some local flavour, the installation will also feature designs from students at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Hong Kong.

Superga, established in 1911, is something of an institution, calling itself the "people's shoe of Italy".

Boglione says that for Italians, Superga is more than a fashion statement - it has sociopolitical and cultural meanings, too.

Hong Kong and [the mainland], people love Italian food, Italian fashion, Italian culture
Marco Boglione

"Since the youth culture revolutions of the '60s and '70s Superga has been a symbol of freedom, the shoe you could wear with jeans. In Britain, you had Dr Martens, but Superga was the one in Italy that let the youth show their new freedom," he says.

So why has the brand taken so long to make its way to Hong Kong? Boglione reveals that since its golden years in the '70s, things have not always gone smoothly for Superga. In fact, the situation even became critical a decade ago.

"Globalisation is something that has come recently for Superga, as 10 years ago [the company] was almost bankrupt," says Boglione.

But after a revamp, the brand made a push into 90 different countries with great success.

The inevitable next step for Superga is to conquer Hong Kong and the mainland, and Boglione is thinking big. "Now it's the big ball game of opening shops. We have plans to open 10 shops within a year in Hong Kong and [on the mainland]."

He himself is seen as a sportswear leader in his native Italy, and also sits on various Italian councils for culture, trade, film, architecture, and even medical charities.

He is banking on a message of cultural affiliation, saying China has more in common with Italy than it thinks.

"We are pushing the Italianness of Superga; Italy is a good brand around the world. In Hong Kong and [the mainland], people love Italian food, Italian fashion, Italian culture.

"The Chinese are not too dissimilar from Italians. They like 'real' things, things with tradition, real stories and real romance."

In the coming weeks, will the giant Superga 2750 be the latest addition to the Hong Kong landscape before, perhaps, moving to other cities like a sneaker version of the Trojan Horse?

"I don't know how we're going to move it," Boglione says with a laugh. "There were ideas about it travelling around the world, but believe me, it's not easy."