Via Spiga’s New Styles Nod to Its ’80s Legacy
Scotswoman-turned-New Yorker Carla De Freitas just took the creative reins of Via Spiga, a shoe company famed for its Italian style. This move gave both Freitas and Via Spiga a chance to regain their footing in the passions of their past. For Via Spiga, that was a return to the old country. For Freitas, it meant revisiting the technical fabrics and shapes that first attracted her to footwear.
“When I took over as creative director, I really thought about the history of the brand. It launched in Italy, and I thought about its namesake fashion street, Via Spiga. And I thought it had to go back to Italy,” the onetime footwear designer for Topshop, Alexander Wang and Vince explains. And so they did. In fact, they went back to the same factory where the brand had first launched 35 years ago, where Freitas found a book of old Via Spiga designs that guided the direction of the brand’s fall collection.
How did you get into designing shoes?
I went into art school and didn’t know what I wanted to do, but knew it needed to be creative. After that first year, I did Camp America. Funnily enough, I was here in a camp in upstate New York. Some friends were saying, “You need to come to Niketown!” I thought, “What could this be?” It was the sneaker store. In the mid ’90s, those Nike stores were very dynamic, with very interesting interiors. I saw all these scuba-shoe slippers on wires with a fish tank behind them. Before that moment I thought that shoes are leather; they are made a certain way. It just put the whole concept of what a shoe could be in a different way. When I got back to school the second year, on the bottom of the list of classes was footwear, and I thought, I’m going to try that. As soon as I started doing it, it was almost an out-of-body experience. I knew that I landed on what I was going to do the rest of my life. I went from a mediocre to an inspired student.
You’ve designed for a lot of labels.
I launched the footwear department for Topshop. I stayed 8 years and had a lot of fun there. It was almost like a mini art school, but with figures and the goal of making things sell. It was very creative and I learned a lot. While there, I got a call from an agent asking if I’d be interested to meet with Alexander Wang. I arranged to meet with him and he was really lovely and a great person. Then I spent some time at Vince and Elizabeth & James, working with the Olsen twins.
And now you’re at Via Spiga, where you’ve already made some major changes, like where the shoes are manufactured.
Obviously, when we think of well-made footwear, we often think of Italy as the country that can do that. That felt like the natural home for the shoes. We reached out to the original factory—it’s in Ancona, in the Marche, which is an area known for footwear. It felt like everyone who was connected to the original journey really cared about it. They were really on board, and for them it was a great memory, of Via Spiga.
Carla De Freitas
And there you found some vintage styles at the Italian factory that inspired this collection?
The vintage Via Spiga I saw there was really focused on shape, good leathers and silhouettes. That’s very aligned with me: I’m very inspired by shapes and how to execute them. Like where the heel starts and the insole begins—I’m very interested in how that comes to be while executing a newer silhouette. I could see they had the same language as me. I suppose there’s something more angular and stronger, and I thought there was something really fresh in that. I liked what was happening in the ’80s.
Tell us about the new collection.
It’s more pared down and clean and about the use of material to create silhouettes . There’s something chic and timeless, and it has more longevity. It’s something you can keep with you for a while and still want to wear it.
What is your favorite thing about designing shoes?
I just love all of it. I suppose my favorite part is to feel like I’m trying something I haven’t seen before: a combination, material, technology or silhouette. I like doing something that shows it’s from 2017 and not 1970. And I love to problem solve. I almost like it when there’s a problem because then it forces you to think in a way you hadn’t before.
And what is your favorite thing about these fall styles?
I love the heel shapes that we worked on. I love the lines and how they complement the foot. I’ve thought about how we can make things more comfortable. As a wearer, there’s the design side of things. I love the mixed media, like neoprene and more sport fabrications combined with the Italian craftsmanship and leather. Playing around with that in an unexpected way. I love the play of sportswear technology and thinking about it in classic Italian-made shoes. And wearability: We not only want to look good, but we need to feel good. A lot of us are busy working women and we want to feel that the fashion doesn’t restrict us. There is no other way now. That is how it has to be. People don’t have the time.
“The company is named after the famous fashion street because Milan and Italy were coming into fashion prominence in the ’80s. I know about Via Spiga from the street.”
You’re a busy working woman. What kind of shoes do you usually wear?
Right now those built-up sport sandals. It’s still hot there. My favorite shoe that is my go-to is a Birkenstock or a sport sandal. And I just started to wear the Bayne. It’s been lovely to wear the shoe. I just love the lines on it. I’m also a mum with two kids, so I run around a lot. So I love it when I can get both movability and fashion.
SHOP: Via Spiga