President of Repetto visits Hong Kong.
President of Repetto, Jean-Marc Gaucher came to Hong Kong to officiate the opening of their new store at ifc recently. We caught up with the man who in his persuit for freedom bought out the famous Parisian ballet shoe making company, Repetto. Jean-March Gaucher has an interesting background, he has been a farmer, waiter, sound engineer before taking on the shoe business as VP of Reebok International and later CEO for Reebok France.
Repetto’s famous ballerina flats shot to fame when sex siren Brigitte Bardot requested a pair made for her and soon became sought after by fashionistas for their comfortable light shoes. After her death of Repetto’s founder Rose Repetto in 1984, the brand withered with accumulating debts and soon fell out of favour with dancers and fashionistas. When Jean-Marc Gaucher took over the brand in 1999, he set up the blueprint for Repetto to become an international luxury shoe brand that is built on the foundation of dance. “That is the roots of Repetto, and always will be”. At the opening of his first flagship store in Hong Kong opened with Swire Resources.
Butterboom: What were the core elements you saw in Repetto that made you decide to take on the brand?
Jean Marc Gaucher: Repetto is a brand with a heritage, known by dancers and fashionistas in the know, it had its roots in ballet dance that stood for perfection and high standards and ballet is something that spoke to all all women.
Butterboom: How does Repetto becomes a shoe for ballerinas to an international fashion brand?
Jean Marc Gaucher: When I was took over the company in 1999, I saw there was an unique opportunity to create awareness for the brand at an international level abroad instead of in France. I sought connections with Japanese designers which were becoming very trendy at that time. I co-branded with Japanese designers Issey Miyake to create shoes for them and produced it for them to sell at their store. After that success we did co-brandig with Comme de Garcon, Karl Largefeld, Rotarde and others.
Butterboom: What must Repetto shoes achieve for the wearer?
Jean Marc Gaucher: Our shoes makes you feel good, change your look and attitude. Our shoes must be comfortable and you feel good when you wear our shoes. Its about the experience so that you want to come back to buy another pair from Repetto.
Butterboom: How are Repetto’s shoes different from other and the many ballerina shoes out in the market?
Jean Marc Gaucher: The way the shoes are made. Each pair of Repetto flats involves 15 meticulous process and is made with Rose Repetto’s one-of-a-kind technique. Called the “le cousu retourne” stitch and return where the soft leather upper of the shoe is stitched to the diagonally-carved leather sole and trimmed. Then it is turned inside out before stitching on the inner sole and heel, keeping the stitching invisible and conceals tow-thirds of the thickness of the sole for maximum comfort, lightness and grace.
Butterboom: Philosophy of shoe making at Repetto?
Jean Marc Gaucher: Dancers have horrible feet because of the pressure they put on their feet. We aim to make the shoe comfortable even for the dancers and worked with the University of Technology of France to produce soundproof shoes that are comfortable for the ballet dancers. So we are about making comfortable shoes that are elegant, soundproof and makes a women feel elegant.
Butterboom: How long does your shoe last?
Jean Marc Gaucher: Our shoes last quite long
Butterboom: How many pairs of shoes do you sell a year?
Jean Marc Gaucher: Over a million pairs
Butterboom: Best selling style?
Jean Marc Gaucher: BB ballerina flats after Brigitte Bardot, whom the shoe was designed for
Butterboom: How many pairs of shoes do you own personally?
Jean Marc Gaucher: About 20-30 pairs
Butterboom: What drives you and what inspires you?
Jean Marc Gaucher: Pleasure…..and freedom, freedom to run the company my way.. and be myself till the end