The adage that every little girl would like to grow up to become either a princess or ballerina (or, ideally, both) may no longer hold true in these Miley Cyrus-centric times, but Michael Flanagan is hoping otherwise. Flanagan, a former investment banker, is the first North American director of Repetto, the Paris-based dancewear and shoe company. Charged with opening Repetto’s New York showroom for the spring 2009 season, Flanagan had one priority. “Build demand,” he says. Translation? Get grown-up women back to the ballet shoe brand they chasséd in as little girls.
While fashion trends are in Flanagan’s favor — thank you, Lanvin — name recognition is not. Repetto was founded in 1947 by French cobbler Rose Repetto. The story goes that she crafted a pair of pointe shoes for her ballet star son Roland Petit; 10 years later, she whipped up ballerina flats. Though the company has long been recognized in Europe as a venerable producer of both professional dance shoes and, in recent years, everyday ones (the chic ballet slipper and currently au courant jazz shoe are bestsellers), Repetto’s identity in the U.S. is less defined. For one thing, there’s the price: about $94 at wholesale for a perforated leather ballerina shoe (a style immortalized by Brigitte Bardot), while a high-heeled shoe wholesales for about $140. Then there’s availability: Until this spring, Repetto shoes could be purchased online or at a handful of small boutiques and in limited quantities at stores like Bergdorf Goodman. Flanagan has set out to change that, ramping up sales directly through the showroom and increasing the brand’s retail presence to more than 80 locations across the country, including Kirna Zabête, Alan Bilzerian and Fred Segal. While the privately owned firm will not release sales figures, Flanagan says sales for the U.S. spring 2009 season have been higher than all of 2008.
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