October 07 2011
Repetto. Sounds like the Italian word for “repeat”, doesn’t it? That would certainly explain why, when it comes to buying ballet slippers, my purchases, for the past 20 years, have all been from the same brand. Since 1947, Repetto has been furnishing the dancers of the Paris Opéra with pointe shoes, slippers and character shoes and, more recently, the rest of us with fashionable footwear that, in an era of ever-more vertiginous heels, offers comfort and style.
The firm was founded by Rose Repetto, who starting out making shoes for her son, the dancer and choreographer Roland Petit. Her boutique in the rue de la Paix went on to supply the world’s best-known dancers and companies: Béjart, Nureyev, Baryshnikov; the Kirov, the Folies Bergère. In the 1950s, Repetto supplied Brigitte Bardot with ballerinas; in the 1970s, Serge Gainsbourg popularised the firm’s white jazz shoes, known as Zizi after Petit’s wife, the dancer Zizi Jeanmaire, which he wore – quelle horreur – sans socks. The company has since collaborated with fashion houses such as Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Comme des Garçons, establishing its reputation as the place for the more serious ballet slipper aficionado to shop.
I own (don’t tell my mother) about a dozen pairs of Repettos: my favourites are in fluorescent orange patent leather that were a limited edition for Colette in Paris, but the ones that get the most wear (they’re now on their third re-heeling) are in buttery soft, elephant-grey leather. I have Repettos in black, white and most colours in between. They fit better than other “ballerinas”, being cut slightly lower on the vamp to elongate the leg (essential with such a flat shoe) but without causing the dreaded toe-cleavage.
They also last longer – I’ve had one pair for nearly 15 years that are still serviceable and, unlike other fashion flatties, they don’t fall apart in the rain (though my advice is to have a rubber sole applied as soon as possible after purchase). The rue de la Paix boutique is still there and worth a visit, but Repetto has a studio closer to home, in Selfridges, supplying shoes to ballerinas, real and aspiring.
First picture: white patent Zizi, £195. Second picture: leather BB ballet flat, £140.