When Rita Di Stefano moved from Rome to San Diego eight years ago, she never imagined she would ditch her geology degree and open a clothing boutique in La Jolla. But when she did, she’d name it Passione, because fashion had always been — well — her passion.
Di Stefano says she chose La Jolla because it reminded her of Europe, specifically the little village where she spent her summers growing up in Forio on the island of Ischia.
Being a boutique owner stationed in some of the most high-priced real estate in the country while still having affordably priced clothing isn’t easy, but Di Stefano manages to do just that with Passione. “All the clothing comes from Rome, and I make sure to shop smartly, get a few good deals with my Italian connections, and choose affordable, but quality things. I look for unique lines who’re excited to have exposure in the U.S.,” says Di Stefano, who has been in business for five years.
Di Stefano doesn’t have any retail experience, other than once working as a salesgirl at another La Jolla boutique. But she loves fashion so much that she used what money she had in her savings to open Passione.
The store is located in the Fay Center — essentially down a small walkway, nestled next door to the Empress Hotel, along with about 17 other small businesses lining it. Each one is about the same square footage as Passione — 175 to 200 square feet.
“It helps me that I’m not directly on the street, it keeps my rent low. But business is tough and the economy has been a challenge. But I’m making it,” Di Stefano says.
Passion boutique sets itself apart by carrying exclusively Italian lines not available in other stores in the U.S. Prices range from $100 for a dress to almost $300. She always keeps a sale rack with clothing prices as low as $50.
Passione’s racks are awash in color right now, filled with large prints and vibrant yellows, pinks, and reds. Di Stefano seems more aware of silhouette and fabric weight, than plunging necklines and tight fits. From the handbags, to the belts, dresses, tops, and jumpsuits, the store offers bold and flattering styles for all body types.
“Italy is the heart of fashion. Italian women want to look unique. They’re a bit obsessed with looking ‘pulled together’ all day, every day. Their look is a classic, sexy, feminine style, and I think my customers can find that here at my store. The clothing we carry is usually a bit ahead of the game, as Italy is pretty forward thinking in fashion. We have a lot of returning customers both locally, and tourists,” Di Stefano says.
7760 Fay Ave., Ste D
La Jolla, CA 92037
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10:30 – 5:30
By appointment as well.