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Jazz Fans

Move over, ballet flat, there's a new dancer in town.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Accessory issue 02/09/2009

Ever since Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova snapped up Capezio slippers for herself and her entire company during their first U.S. tour in 1910, the leap from stage to runway to street has been swift for dance shoes: Consider the quintessential ballet flat, that essence of casual chic that enjoyed a fashion renaissance in the late Fifties (merci, Audrey Hepburn, and your skinny pants in Funny Face!). In more recent years, everyone from Lanvin to Nine West has sent forth variations on the slip-ons, from the former’s elastic-structured style to the suedeand feather-covered designs at London Sole.

It was inevitable, then, that another hot-stepper’s footwear of choice—the jazz shoe—would assume its place as a fashion muse, first in the Eighties (remember Fame?) and then in 2006, when Dior Homme put the delicate lace-ups on its models. Fast-forward to spring 2008, and the jazz shoe is most certainly getting its due. More sturdy than the ballet flat—some variations include a stacked heel, while the sneakerlike lace-up design offers ankle support—the jazz shoe possesses an androgynous quality, its rounded toe and cross-stitching lending the effect of a men’s dress shoe.

Repetto’s line, which launched in the Sixties, was inspired by ballerina Zizi Jeanmarie, who had married Rose Repetto’s son, Roland Petit (subsequently, Serge Gainsbourg reportedly wore only Repetto during the last part of his life). These days, “the shoes come in 18 different combinations of various colors and materials,” according to general manager Michael Flanagan. While Repetto long has been a favored producer of the style, there are a few unexpected names getting into the mix: Christian Louboutin, better known for sleek stilettos, has done up his design in sunburst yellow, while Max Kibardin has a festive bead-embossed look. David Neville and Marcus Wainwright, the designers behind Rag & Bone, took a more classic approach, crafting a shoe that hews closely to the dancer’s prototype, while Jonathan Kelsey—the man behind the shoe lines for Mulberry and Emilio Pucci—did a sleek white one with a considerably pointed toe. As day-to-evening accessories go, these numbers give new meaning to the request: “Put your dancing shoes on.”

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