Sitting in her humble Parisian atelier,just a hop, skip and a jump away from the National Opera of Paris, Rose Repetto could not have imagined the dedicated following of professional ballet dancers she began to acquire.
It is said that her secret to success was rather simple, the shoes were crafted exquisitely and she paid incredible attention to detail. Every pair was handmade, fit the dancer’s foot like a glove and lasted longer than any other ballet shoe.
But the name may not have garnered as much of a cult following as it did, had it not been for the sultry siren of the 50’s and 60’s, Brigitte Bardot.A classically trained ballerina, in her own right,in 1954 the stunning Brigitte asked Rose to create an elegant and comfortable version of the ballet slipper to wear while shooting the film that launched her into super stardom, Et Dieu Crea La Femme. The film’s success, Brigitte’s imminent fashion icon status and an appearance at Cannes Film Festival helped launch ‘La Ballerine Cendrillon’or the ‘Cinderella Ballet Flat’.
By 1959, Rose opened her first boutique on Rue de la Paix and had some of the prima ballerinas from around the world knocking on her door.Over the years, this boutique has continued to cater to dancers of the Opera National de Paris and Opera de Lyon.
The 70’s saw French singer and style icon, Serge Gainsborg falling in love with the ‘Zizi’, a style that Rose created for her daughter-in-law, dancer Zizi Jeanmarie and this endorsement had men giving the brand a closer look. But in the 80’s the brand hit a bit of a snag and with beloved Rose passing away in 1984, sales just kept plummeting.
It wasn’t until 1999, when Jean Marc Gaucher joined the brand as CEO, that they began to re-establish themselves. It was after noticing the noise that the traditional ballet pointe shoes made and the discomfort they caused as the dancer pranced around the stage that Jean decided the way forward was to revolutionise the traditional ballet shoe. He said, “I wanted to be the most technical brand in the dance industry, I want dancers to think about Repetto as the top brand.” And through collaborating with the research department of the Compiègne University, he was able to drop noise levels by 61% and keep Rose’s tradition of using the ‘stitch and return’ method of making ballet shoes alive so that dancers felt no pain at all. “Repetto is first of all a dance brand,” he stated, “That is the brand identity and heritage.” It is a testament to the tradition of the brand that this unique method of creating ballet shoes is also used when putting together the flat ballerinas.“Repetto shoes are designed to make women look graceful and beautiful,” adds Jean, “Repetto is the only brand in the world designed for ballet dancers. Isn’t it nice when people say you walk like a dancer?”
Apart from reinventing the ballet shoe,the label was also involved in a series of savvy partnerships that caused the brand to reignite on a popular culture stand-point, the first of which was in 2000 with Issey Miyake. The next was to mark Repetto’s 60th anniversary when they invited 60 artists, designer and celebrities including Marc Jacobs, Kirsten Dunst and the woman that started it all, Brigitte Bardot,to create a customized collection of shoes and tutus. Most reputably, in 2008, Repetto collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld, when he designed a stunning tutu-inspired creation for the brand.
What started out as a small home run business all the way back in 1947, has grown to a presence in 42 countries to become an international darling of ballerinas and A-listers alike. After all,who wouldn’t want to walk on air?