The Olsens’ Latest Gig: Creative Heads of Superga

The design duo will take the helm at the Italian shoe brand's North American division.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have expanded their fashion empire yet again.

This story first appeared in the September 12, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Steve Madden Ltd., which inked a deal in February with BasicNet SpA for the exclusive North American license of Italian sneaker brand Superga, has tapped the Olsens as creative directors.

“We do a lot of business with Mary-Kate and Ashley. They’ve become friends,” said creative and design chief Steve Madden, explaining that it was the Olsens who first approached him about doing something with the heritage athletic brand.

“We were at a meeting with Steve, and we were wearing Supergas — two years later, it kind of fell into our lap,” Ashley Olsen told WWD. “I really don’t think there’s anything like this brand. It’s a tennis-shoe brand with 100 years under its belt.”

Superga, whose North American license was previously owned by R.G. Barry Corp., said its sales were just under $5 million last year. With the help of the Olsens, Steve Madden plans to quadruple that sum in the next 24 months. The licensing deal lasts three years and is renewable for four additional years.

According to Franco Spalla, chief executive officer of BasicNet, Superga’s parent company, the collaboration with the Olsens will allow the company to “better meet the tastes of the American customers.”

Indeed, as creative directors, the Olsens will not only use their clout as celebrities, but also as successful designers of luxe brand The Row and contemporary sportswear collection Elizabeth and James.

Within the last two years, the Olsens have broadened their reach, expanding into eyewear, as well as shoes for Elizabeth and James courtesy of a licensing deal with Steve Madden.

For Superga, the Olsens will launch an upscale spring 2012 sneaker collection that will be co-branded with The Row and will be available in stores where The Row’s clothing and accessories are sold.

Beyond this collaboration, the designers will develop all creative and marketing initiatives for Superga, as well as oversee retail lines of distribution. Currently, the sisters are aiming to get Superga in high-end department stores and specialty footwear boutiques at a price point of between $60 and $150.

“At first, Superga just needs to start off in the right stores and be on the right people’s feet,” said Ashley Olsen. “We look at a million opportunities a day; it’s very personal for us.”

That may be true, but the girls were adamant that there were no plans in the works to either expand their own mini fashion empire or add apparel or new accessories offerings to Superga’s collection.

“Superga is really a luxurious brand. We are really hoping to bring it back to its roots,” added Mary-Kate Olsen. “We’re just concentrating on our brand and Superga for the time being.”