The Repetto ballet flat story

The Repetto ballet flat story

The ballet flat: Il était une fois, une jolie petite chaussure… Once upon a time, there was a pretty little shoe… 

Charming. Chic. Classic. Comfortable: The ballet flat – la ballerine, in French –  seduces women around the world. Check out your favorite retailers or online stores in the spring, and you will see it everywhere. Offered in a wide selection of colors, styles, materials and prices, the ballet flat is a must-have in every woman’s wardrobe, from the average Jeanne, to fashionistas and the world’s First ladies. 
 
ballet flat
Carla Bruni Sarkozy on the town… 
ballet flat
… or at work, while shooting Woody’s “Midnight in Paris”
ballet flat
Madame Obama loves her ballet flats…
ballet flat
Inès de la Fressange at home
Beyonce and her baby:
Mother and daughter wear ballerines!

 

Not all ballet flats are created equal. One brand has ruled the market (and the heart of the world’s ballerine lovers) for over 65 years: RepettoThe story of the ballet flat can be traced back to 1947: In Paris, Rose Repetto perfects a pair of revolutionary ballet slippers and pointe shoes for her son, Roland Petit (1924-2011,) a renowned dancer and choreographer. Rose Repetto’s shoes are such a hit with Roland that his friends Rudolf Noureyev and Maurice Béjart start wearing them too.

Rose’s secret: exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail. Repetto dance shoes are entirely handmade; fit the dancer’s foot like a glove; and prove more durable than their competitors. In the following years, Rose’s shoes acquire a dedicated following among the ranks of the Paris Opera Ballet. Dancers flock to her small workshop to order the magical shoes.

ballet flat
Madame Repetto (1907-1984)
ballet flat
Rose Repetto and her son, Laurent Petit
(France Soir)


If Repetto shoes were an almost immediate hit with professional dancers, the rest of the world may have never heard about them without Brigitte Bardot, the famed French actress and animal rights activist. In 1956, the young French star is about to shoot the movie that will turn her into an overnight sensation, and one of cinema’s greatest sex-symbols: Et Dieu Créa La Femme (And God Created Woman.) Beautiful and sensual Brigitte, a classically trained ballerina, asks Rose Repetto to create for her a comfortable but elegant city version of the ballet slipper. La Ballerine Cendrillon (the Cinderella ballet flat) is born. The world is going to take notice, and Brigitte Bardot becomes one of the most influential fashion trend setters in the 1960s and 1970s.

ballet flat
A young “B.B.” mesmerizes at the Cannes Film Festival
The 1960s belong to B.B.!

Free-spirited, vibrant and sensual, Brigitte Bardot – or B.B. (pronounced “Bébé“,) is going to impose a style: la ballerine, le pantacourt, le chignon choucroute, (ballet flats, capris and sexy, voluminous hair.)

Add la marinière (the French sailor shirt,) and behold the iconic Bardot look, a classic still in vogue today.

The original: B.B. in 1956
Emma Watson
Kate Moss
Trying too hard?


We must pause here and give credit to lovely Audrey Hepburn who discovered ballet flats (made especially for her by designer Salvadore Ferragamo) while shooting Roman Holiday in 1954. Did Audrey – also a classically trained ballerine – inspire Brigitte? Or did Brigitte inspire Audrey? We will never know. Different women, different styles.  But they both made the look work, n’est-ce-pas?

“Roman Holiday:”
A princess wears ballet flats
Mid-1950s
Still sporting ballet flats in the 1960s…


There were other celebrity endorsements along the way, and they helped propel Repetto beyond its competition. After Serge Gainsbourg, the controversial French singer and composer, adopted the Zizi model, once created by Rose Repetto for her daughter in law, famed dancer and one-time actress Zizi Jeammaire, male customers took a closer look at Repetto shoes.

Serge Gainsbourg, a valued customer,
had a closet full of Repettos!
The “Zizi Richelieu” is still a best-seller today!
The great Zizi Jeammaire


While Repetto’s fame kept growing through the 1960s and 1970s, the French brand – like many other traditional companies – hit a snag in the 1980s. Consumers’ taste had changed, and Repetto’s former customers now favored different styles of shoes. Even professional dancers were moving away from their once- favorite brand. Rose Repetto died in 1984, and sales kept plummeting.

A business man came to the rescue. HIs name was Jean Marc Gaucher. He had successfully launched Reebok in France and took over the venerable French company in 1999. Through savvy marketing (including partnerships with famous designers and brands such as Isse Myake, Karl Lagerfeld, Comme des Garçons and Colette,) a focus on foreign markets (more noticeably Japan,) and new distribution channels, Gaucher orchestrated the renaissance of Repetto. In 2012, the brand has cornered the consumer luxury market for ballet flats around the world; while re-establishing itself as a leader in the world of professional dancing.

Jean-Marc Gaucher, Repetto C.E.O.
Repetto Collection by Comme des Garçons
Karl Lagerfeld collection, for Repetto (2009)

 

In 2006, the Repetto flagship store located 22 rue de la Paix on Paris’ Right Bank, was given a make-over befitting a worldwide brand. Today, customers flock to the elegant boutique and do not hesitate spending over $200 on a pair of ballet flats. You do not like ballet flats? Not to worry. Other products are available for discerning customers: a complete line of dance wear, bien sûr; handbags (inspired by dancers’ bags,) and accessories. I heard the sales personnel can act a tad haughty on occasion, in typical Parisian fashion! 

Repetto flagship store on the prestigious Rue de la Paix
Repetto “B.B.” in flame red: a hit in Japan!


Jean-Marc Gaucher does not rest on Repetto’s prestigious past and ongoing success. The French company is investing in its future, too. This year {Note: published in 2012,} a training school opened in the beautiful Dordogne region, near the Repetto’s outlet store and production center (85% of Repetto shoes are still made in France.) Gaucher’s goal is to provide skilled jobs for unemployed French youth, while ensuring that the company’s focus on excellence and craftsmanship is passed on to the next generation. 

 

 Do you own a pair of Repettos? Several? What is your favorite brand of ballet flats? Are you a Repetto fan; or do you prefer les ballerines Maloles a competitor on the French market.)

As for me, I can’t really afford these… 





… and Seattle is too dang far away from the Repetto outlet store in the Dordogne.

In my little corner of the world, I am partial to J. Crew’s Cece ballet flats and have just invested in a new pair for summer.

Still, you can be certain I will visit the Repetto flagship store when I go back to Paris. After all, who can resist the appeal of a luxurious shopping environment; colorful {if overpriced} shoes, and snooty sales staff? Ah, Paris, I have missed you so…

A bientôt…


68 Responses to The Repetto ballet flat story

  1. Lovely post as always, Veronique! I do not own a pair of Repettos…trop cher! But for an American brand, I am partial to my Tory Burch Reva flats, which I received as a gift from my very chic aunt. My feet are very prone to blisters, and these shoes are the most comfortable ballet flats I’ve ever tried on. Perhaps not as comfortable as Repetto? I will never know!

  2. You have dazzled us with a rainbow of Repettos… I know some frogs and tadpoles around here who have a few too… seems like they could never go out of style… A fine weekend to you, whichever color of flats you may be wearing… 🙂

  3. Well my dear, you’ve posted a blog that made my heart sing!!! J’adore Repetto flats…from a distance. Usually through the window on Rue de la Paix! Their windows are enough for me. I’m afraid my days of wearing these are long gone but I do love to see the new and colorful editions each season, not to mention that fabulous WALL of toe shoes!
    V

    • Dear V. I know your expert eye has already captured that Repetto “vitrine” to perfection. Looking at your photos would be the next best thing to actually stepping inside. I am planning on doing just that in June and will report back.

  4. just D-E-L-I-G-H-T-F-U-L…repetto is my favorite but love the cece j crew-you NEVER cease to amaze-gosh i miss my monday morning coffe and v dose….so HAPPY when you post – well i am off to go purchase the devine coral ballet flats from the j crew ballet boutique!!! have a glorious week end-your faithful reader here in philly-

    • Yeah! g is back!!! I hope you are well, my friend, and that your dad is feeling better. Thank you for stopping by today. Why did you have to mention the Cece coral flats? Why?! I was going to try and resist until I go to France but now that you have talked about them… Arggghhhh…

  5. Well you have just given me another life goal: to one day own a pair of Repetto ballet flats! These are so lovely and dainty and seem so comfy! I own several flats, but they are generic brands. I wore heels four straight years in a row as a news reporter. For the past two years I have been wearing flats, and I will probably never go back to heels.

    Awesome post! (As usual). 😉

    • Aren’t you happy that so many of the “life goals” I have given you already all involve visiting France? 😉 Heck, if you are super organized, you could probably achieve most of them in one long, carefully planned trip… Bon weekend, Jenny!

  6. Dearest Véronique,

    LOVED this post for your juicy writing and for the history that you always manage to interweave. La B.B. muah… But I’m not a favorite of ballerina flats. I have only one pair and they have ankle straps in navy blue and those I adore.
    In general, comparing these great stars with their race horse legs with the average woman is quite different. Therefore they most of the time do not ‘lengthen’ the silhouette of a woman in a flattering way, but rather stomp it off. But sure, all those with a bit of problem feet they certainly embrace these Repetto style ballet shoes.
    Love to you,

    Mariette

    • Good point Mariette. We don’t all have B.B.’s, Audrey’s or Zizi’s long legs, but you are pretty tall, as I recall, Dutch girl. What should I say? I will deal with my “stomped off” silhouette since ballerines are a fairly new addiction for me. Hope my hubby can still spot me in a crowd! 😉

    • Merci Richard. Ah, la Grande Catherine. J’ai bien cherche des photos d’elle en ballerines mais n’en ai pas trouve, helas. Passe un beau weekend ensoleille a Antibes, et bonne election dimanche!

  7. Such a fabulous post, as always Veronique! I love how you always manage to teach us something that we didn’t know–even about such French icons. I am actually a driving moc girl (gasp!) but do love the comfort and the all around wear it with anything of a good ballerine. Yay for BB and Audrey!
    Bon weekend!

    • Bonjour Heather. Nothing wrong with driving mocs. In fact, a pair of Tod’s driving mocs has been on my wish-list for years. You would look great in ballet flats, too, you tall, red-headed American girl!

  8. I didn’t know that Brigitte was the one who started the trend – fascinating! As a former ballet dancer, I adore Repetto. Thank you!

    • Bonjour Barbara. “B.B.” started many fashion trends in her time. I have only mentioned a few here… She was quite influential, and still is, from the look of things. Great to hear from an actual ballet dancer! Bon weekend!

  9. what a wonderful post! I have never heard of Repetto, and I even took ballet in college! Can you believe it? I’m off to Google him and admire more of his shoes.

    Amber

  10. Very much enjoyed your post, and learned about Repetto. During the 1960’s in the U.S., the Capezio brand was the shoe of choice for young women. Do you know it? I’m not even sure the brand survives today…I think not.

  11. I have to admit, I’m not big into fashion…but I admire it, what an art form! I think I have seen more high heels in Vegas than I have drank wine in France. I feel like they are getting higher by the minutes Veronique. Is this a good fashion? It’s so nice to see something new…like flats. =)

    • High heels… I can’t say I am a fan, even though I probably should, given the fact that I am the size of the “average French woman” according to statistics (read: “short!”) — I’d still pick a pair of comfortable ballet flats over vertiginous Christian Louboutin heels. Probably would look out of place in Vegas, then, eh?

  12. you are so funny -i was laughing out loud to myself-my dad is healing everyday- some very scary/serious stuff-and some life changes for all of us- but everyday more and more like himself-back to neurosurg doctor in another 2 weeks-we shall see-i hope that is not too much of a downer or too much info on this beautiful space-and what is this i read you will be attending the summer sales in france….OH PLEASE DO FILL US IN and please know i read your comments everyday to see what everyone else is saying-YOU ARE THE BEST! lovely weekend my friend thanks for your very thoughtful words!

  13. You have chosen a wonderful selection of photos here displaying all these lovely Repetto shoes. I love to wear ballet flats especially in the summer – my favourite pair (so comfy!!) are by Dune but are amazingly similar to those Chanel ones (less expensive however!) My mission now is to own a pair of the BB ones! I had ballet lessons from age four to seventeen and had pointe shoes although I can’t remember the brand so maybe I have already owned several pairs of Repetto!!!!
    http://missbbobochic.blogspot.co.uk/

  14. I had no idea Repetto was actually so close to me in the Basque Country. There is HOPE for an affordable pair (or 2) during a braderie. I would love a pair in black and another in red (mat!) GREAT article!

    • You’d better believe I would attend that braderie if I lived closer, too. The young lady this story is dedicated to, Marion, told me you can snatch a pair for 80 Euros (basically half price) during the event. Not a bad deal.

  15. Thank you for sharing so much background on Repetto and for the images of my Miss Audrey!

    Please, one in every color!!

    I have featured an Interview with Tina from The Enchanted Home…

    xoxo
    Karena

    Art by Karena

    • One in every color would be quite fun. Imagine what a cheerful and colorful closet you would have! Enough to brighter any rainy day (come to think of it, every female Seattle home owner should have one of those!) Thank you for your visit. I will stop by The Enchanted Home today. Congrats on the interview!

  16. The best shoes there are. I am glad they are back in fashion. Used to wear them at the same time BB and Audrey wore them. Yes that long ago.:))) Big fashion then too. Have a nice weekend.

  17. The Repetto flagship store is a must-stop on each visit to Paris and I snap away. I do not actually own a pair of Repetto ballet flats but my sister Nanette who danced and taught dance wore out about a hundred pointe shoes over the years. The chandeliers, the brass ladder and the wall of shoes just sings to me on each visit and that does not even count the creative and amazing windows.

    I love your complete story here and the links… plus the tip about J Crew…

    Bises,
    Genie

  18. Excellent post, I’m not sure if there is an outlet for Repettos’s here in Perth Veronique, but believe me I will definitely be finding out asap, because all of a sudden I feel that I really need a pair haha! There is a brand here that I quite like called ‘I love Billy’ they are reasonably priced with many, many styles and really comfortable too. Loved the images of ‘Repetto’ wearers, they do look good on long slim legs, mine are not so long but I still love the ballet flats. till next time Veronique….

    • Bonjour Grace. Outlet store in Perth sounds doubtful but you could always hit the sale in Paris one of these days… Lovely to hear from you, as always. PS: Is it still hot, hot, hot and sunny in Perth?

  19. Truly, if I had to choose one brand & style shoe to wear for the rest of my life…I’d be very pleased if they were only Repetto! Fabulous post!! Thanks for the smiles.

    • You’re welcome Suzanne. Funny that both you and I mentioned Madame Sarkozy 🙂 Well, she is going to have a lot of free time now, and since she has a brand-new baby, that’s a good thing. I am happy that little girl will have her dad at home more often now. I bet, deep down, he is happy too (and he has earned a break from all that madness anyway.)

  20. “Un délice!!!” This was such a delight. It brought back so many sweet “souvenirs” of my French past. Thanks for the lovely walk down memory lane.

    I love your posts. They always make me smile, which, as you know, is something the French do all too rarely.

    Bises, M-T

  21. I used to wear ballerinas but after so many years of walking my feet need more “comfortable walking shoes..” What a well researched post with such fabulous illustrations – un plaisir à lire.

  22. Wonderful post! I always learn so many interesting things from you. You do your research! I wear ballet flats, but I was never a dancer. 😉
    Happy Mother’s Day!

    • The Repetto factory is located in St Medard d’Excideuil, in the Perigord region. They hold “braderies” (sales) several times a year, and Repettos can be snatched for as low as 40 or 50 Euros a pair then! Bonne chance!

  23. Hello, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your wonderful post on ballet flats – so much I did not know, but loved learning! Ballet flats should be in every girl’s wardrobe! I do appreciate you sharing and am happy to be your newest follower,
    Kathy

  24. How I wish there were an American store to buy these from! I am nervous to order them from France and not be able to return them if they don’t fit my fussy feet.

    Maybe an excuse to return to Paris some day?

  25. I have several ballet flats in my wardrobe, despite the fact that I’m short. I think there is no such woman that wouldn’t love them for their comfort.

  26. Great story about Repetto’s company, for me one of the most beautiful ballerinas makers in the world. IDespite being a young man, I used to wear ballet slippers from this brand for my ballet classes and I really love them. Good quality and price. Then I started , sorry I hope you dont mind, to wear ballet flats (ballerines)after had an injury at the top of my foot and discovered how comfortable and practical this kind of shoes are. I only tried twice Repettos ballet flats very comfortable but out of my budget, so I only wear Sam Edelman Felicia flats that are more affordable and also comfortables and by the way I also have a pair of TB Revas in black for dressy outfit. Finally I think ballet flats were and maybe will be unisex shoes in the future.
    Bonne journée
    Ivan

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