Behind the Scenes: Phillip Nappi

Phillip Nappi’s dream of becoming a shoemaker was born when he worked at a shoe store in college. He felt at home among the piles of boxes and smell of leather, telling his co-workers he would one day open a store in New York City. He went into sales after college, but despite his success, he could never get the shoes off his mind. It wasn’t until years later, after he’d bought and sold a garbage company here in Nashville, that he, his wife and daughter moved to Italy so he could learn how to make shoes. While he was there, he did some research on his family lineage and discovered that his grandfather Peter Nappi had been part of a long line of Italian shoemakers. So in 2011, Phillip and his wife, Dana, revived his grandfather’s legacy by establishing the Peter Nappi brand in Nashville. All of their products are designed at their shop in Germantown and handmade in Italy with great skill and care. 

Name: Phillip Nappi

Profession/Title: President and co-founder of Peter Nappi

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Zip code: 37205

Years in Nashville: 18

Favorite Peter Nappi product: The Julius Boot

What is the best place to buy a gift in Nashville?

White’s Mercantile, AshBlue and — of course — Peter Nappi

What is one luxury you can't live without?

San Pellegrino sparkling water with lime is a luxury to me. I know I can have water from a lot of sources, and the glass bottles are a waste, but it tastes better. There is something elegant about pouring from glass, and it allows me to cut back on wine.

What is your favorite locally made product?

I love to cook, and good cooking starts with great ingredients. We signed up for Bloomsbury Farm's CSA last summer — by far the freshest product in town.  

What are your favorite local events?

Anything showing at the Ryman, the Music City Food + Wine Festival and Titans games

What are the essential shoes for every man to own?

A cool sneaker, a classic dress shoe, a Peter Nappi boot and a loafer

What is the most interesting place you’ve traveled?

I really only go to Italy, but I do love St. Barthélemy. Paris is one of our favorites, and this past summer, we spent time in northern France along the coast. The historical relevance of that part of the world is fascinating.  

What are the best new Nashville restaurants?

Etc. and Sam’s Place in Belle Meade

What is currently in heavy rotation on your iTunes or car stereo?

Lately, we have been listening to a lot of Christian contemporary music like Brandon Heath, Zach Williams and Chris Tomlin. Some close friends on a vacation over the summer turned us on to it, and we haven’t looked back. We have a young daughter, so the positive message is important for us all. Otherwise, I like Vivaldi, Louis Armstrong and most types of lounge chill music.

Who are the Nashvillians with great personal style?

Spencer Hays, Jeff Loring and David Arms

Who is your favorite local clothing or accessory designer?

Emil Erwin gets it right. His styles are great and craftsmanship is second to none.

What’s the most exciting thing happening at Peter Nappi right now?

Oh, gosh. We just got back from showing at Pitti Uomo for the second season in a row. We are doing a collaboration with an Italian menswear brand, Fortela, and are in a Milan showroom. Barneys picked us up in the fall, so we’re growing that business. We are working with an additional factory in Italy that has an amazing rep who we can scale our business with. In the store, we just hired two amazing people to serve our clients and grow local business. We are installing a barber’s chair, putting our workshop back in, doing a partnership with Steadfast for coffee and a shoeshine stand. We're also doing an event with Garden & Gun this summer and another big party for Bonnaroo. For online, we just closed our biggest year of business where we saw triple-digit growth.

What brought you to Nashville?

I’ve been here close to 20 years, so I can’t really remember. I think it was a job. Can’t imagine living anywhere else.

If you had to choose a fabric aside from leather to work with, what would you choose and why?

Canvas … I love the rugged and casual look of it and the durability.