Repetto, ballet shoes in Paris Featured

A brilliant crafting intuition set the stage for world fame
by 01 June 2009

For the last few years, the ballerina has been a key trend everywhere in the world. All shoemakers have set about making them, but it’s Repetto that is making the most of this trend. Luxos tells a success story here.

It’s a story of ballet slippers and of passion. Roland Petit, French dancer and choreographer, urged his mother into making dance shoes for him back in 1947. Rose Repetto, for the sake of her son, stitched the leather on the inside before flipping it out. This technique would soon be acknowledged by the greatest dancers, from Béjart to Nureyev. The shoe took on a new dimension a few years later when Brigitte Bardot ordered a pair to wear in the film “And God Created Woman” by Roger Vadim. In the same breathe as the actress was proclaimed a star, the ballet pump also became a hit.

In 1957, the Repetto house was established at 5 Rue de la Paix, between Opéra Garnier and Place Vendôme, before moving definitively to number 22 of the same street. Repetto became a household name in the dance circle. Each shoe was handmade and quality-controlled. Besides the reverse stitch method, Rose made sure the sole remained light so that the slipper fit the foot perfectly. Their success was confirmed when big opera houses and dance schools began commissioning Repetto to be the exclusive supplier. At the same time, in the 1970s, celebrities from Catherine Deneuve to Serge Gainsbourg and Mick Jagger became fans of these ballerinas which were both elegant and comfortable.

With the death of Rose Repetto in 1984 the house experienced various hardship, from takeovers to voluntary liquidation. The ballet slippers didn’t grace any foot for almost 20 years, until Jean-Marc Gaucher, ex-CEO of Reebok in France, acquired the brand. Self-educated with business acumen, Mr. Gaucher insisted that the dance shoe should remain the brand’s first priority with 100% traditional production. He stressed technique and quality, without neglecting the manufacture of the “urban” version for the city.

The unique factory in Dordogne (South-West France) remains traditional and 100% French. In 2005, he launched a leather goods line inspired by dance products, then in 2006 a ready-towear collection for young girls. Following this, the esteemed Rue de la Paix address underwent a renovation with new dance-themed décor of barres, mirrors and red curtains. Meanwhile, the ballerina returned to centre stage, this time as a real fashion item.

To relaunch and immortalize the product, Jean-Marc Gaucher targeted the United States and Japan first and foremost, collaborating with designers like Yohji Yamomoto, Comme des Garçons and Catherine Malandrino. With almost 1000 points of sale worldwide, the Repetto boutique in Paris are always full, receiving up to 300 customers a day. The “urban” ballerinas, designed to be worn in the street, represent 55% of total sales today, but they certainly don’t shadow the dance shoes. Figures reached 28 million euros in 2007.

New models with innovative materials and colours come out each season. Repetto has revealed its latest technique in La Carlotta, a professional dance model that reduced the noise made by the point by 70%. Repetto never runs out of good ideas, collaborating with big names in the fashion industry. In 2009 Karl Lagerfeld designed original and stylish Repetto ballerinas for the street. The show must go on…

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