Repetto: The dream shoes
In 15 years, has made dance a trend that has transformed Repetto shoes into a global phenomenon. Meeting with a visionary businessman.
It was a cloudy morning in Paris when I parked my “Velib” bicycle beside a luxury building near the Park Monceau. I felt like a little girl about to enter a fairy type world of dancers. I was meeting with Jean-Marc Gaucher, the Repetto’s CEO.
Entering into a fabulous white reception area, a magnificent sent of rose perfume created a superb atmosphere. A beautiful tutu shares this space with books, magazines and publications about the most famous brand of dance shoes.
I was received by Mr. Gaucher, an atypical and visionary businessman, who with determination and passion turned Repetto into one of the most coveted brands in the world.
He ushered me into a meeting room that that is an exact replica of a Repetto store, surrounded by shoes, dresses and accessories, where we began our interview:
- After a successful period at Reebok, Mr. Gaucher transformed a sleeping beauty into one of the most desired French brands. My first question was therefore to ask his secret in rebuilding such a brand.
I always liked challenges, he replied. The brand has always been associated with the feminine universe and the magic of ballet – but the product was forgotten and somewhat out of fashion. When I took over the company, I had a goal – I wanted it to become the “Rolls Royce” of dance shoes; I had three clear objectives;
• To became a global brand that develops unique products.
• Never to make copies. Create the best and most innovative products for the world of dance.
• And make a mark in the world of luxury.
Even today, 15 years after, it is these three guiding principles remain the basis on how I develop this superb brand. Everyone who works with me and all people who come to work for Repetto’s know these 3 goals – which has became the company’s philosophy.
- In 1999 when Jean-Marc Gaucher decided to buy Repetto, the brand was in a state of collapse. Was this was the reason why he immediately decided to reach out to new markets ?
Yes, this was one of the reasons. After a visit to London, I saw an outdoor advertisement where Sony and Ericsson, two competing brands had joined forces to create a telephone.
At that moment I thought – “this is an very interesting idea” – and decided to use this strategy and propose a co-branding with Issey Miyake- who was a fashion designer in vogue at the time and who was very close to the universe of classical dance.
I made him a proposition to create shoes together, we manufactured the shoes and he distributed them in his boutiques, which at the time were extremely well positioned in the world. Only with an ID “Issey Miyake by Repetto.” And it worked! Then it was the turn of Yohji Yamamoto on 2002, Comme des Garçons on 2004 … All brands are doing this today, but we did it 15 years ago…
- After that what was your strategy?
It was to bring together tradition and modernity. The brand already had a strong history, not only in dance world, but also in town shoes, as the first model was created especially for Brigitte Bardot to use in film “And God Created Woman” in 1956” Bardot had asked Rose Repetto, to create a delicate shoe for her.
And of course there was the famous Serge Gainsbourg who wore the mythical Repetto shoe model called ‘Zizi’ … My goal was to focus on the knowhow of the company, which was the dance using the best technology available and to bring grace, femininity and elegance of the dancers to town shoes.
- Repetto is today not only a brand of ballet shoes and town shoes but also produces handbags, prêt-à-porter and recently a perfume. Why the diversification of products?
The product diversification is part of the natural growth of a company. To launch a line of handbags, I accompanied a tour with a group of dancers and saw that between one performance and another, and even inside the bus, they often used their bags as pillows…thats when I had the idea came of ??creating a collection of large handbags, but extremely soft, that they could carry all of their “kit-dance” but also uses them as a small ‘doudous’ to rest…
The constant renewal of products is also part of the strategy. You can visit our boutique every two months; there will always be new products.
Unlike other luxury brands, I decided to have collections six times a year rather than the usual twice a year, not only by the desire for novelty, but also to soften the production, have more control over the stocks and thus have more overall control of growth of our company. After that, creating a perfume and a line of prêt-à-porter was a natural consequence … products which are directly linked to the ultra romantic and feminine universe of dance.
- What are the secrets of manufacturing? Is the concept “Made in France” important?
The company has a unique knowhow, the technique called “reverse stitching” (for fitting ballet shoes without glue), developed in 1947 by the creator of the brand, Rose Repetto. This technique was to relieve the feet of her son Roland Petit, a young dancer…so the assembly of our shoes are still made ??in the original way in the factory of Saint-Médard for dancers from around the world.
Secondly, the “Made ??in France” label is definitely linked to the concept of a luxury product. We want our brand associated with these values. All our shoes are made in France. In 2011, we even created a school to train professionals on the specific assembly techniques of making Repetto shoes.
The prêt-à-porter is also made ??in France, but some items knitted in Italy with the goal of maintaining the high quality of our products.
- For you, does the dance image remain the main focus of the brand?
Since its inception, the Maison Repetto manufactures dance products: tutus, pointe shoes and half tips, tights … Today these are made for most famous dancers in the world – for the Paris Opera, the Royal Ballet in London, the Bolchoï Moscow and San Francisco Ballet …
Repetto is first of all a dance brand. It’s brand identity and heritage.
- In 2007 to celebrate the 60 years of Repetto, you created the Foundation “Dance for life”, why this project?
With the ‘Dance for Life’ Foundation’, my goal was to democratize dance, facilitating access for disadvantaged students in the world by providing the necessary material. Showing that a dancer is not just to have a perfect aesthetic image, but that it is also a special tool for life learning and self-confidence. Today we maintain schools in many parts of the world like Cuba, Haiti, South Africa, Brazil, Ukraine … I’m very happy with this project!
- The future of Repetto?
The future if Repetto is to make it a lasting and durable brand. That Repetto will worn by ballet dancers – young and old and by women around the world for their pleasure and comfort and style.
Because today in all our boutiques but especially in our Parisian boutique in Rue de la Paix, where we have received many, many celebrities, we still get our greatest pleasure and satisfaction in seeing a little aspiring dancer in our fitting rooms trying on their shoes and dresses in front of the mirror – This is our real celebrity – our true star.