|Stringing me along|
Note: It's Marsi, Tish’s now and again guest blogger, reporting for duty while Tish is offline for a bit. This summer, I’ll be posting some new and original content here, as well as republishing posts from the archives of LuxeBytes, my former blog about “the pursuit of the greater goods.” I originally published today’s post about Repettos on LuxeBytes on June 6, 2010, and have tweaked it a bit to bring it up to date.
So, I’m sitting here with a pedicure in progress (Essie Wicked) this morning and writing about close-toed shoes that I can’t possibly wear today: Repettos. Ah, well, c’est la vie, as they say. The sooty, sinister red on my toes demands to be seen in sandals anyway, especially in this ghastly 90-degree heat.
|One way to be Wicked . . . .|
But let’s talk Repetto, shall we? What gives you French street cred more than the ultimate ballerine? Repetto is the original, the one to whom others pay homage with their knockoffs, both high and low. Created at the behest of Brigitte Bardot, who wanted the comfort and style of of a ballet slipper in a street shoe, the ballerine quickly became a classic.
|And God Created Repetto . . . .|
But I don’t have to tell you this: if you admire French style, of course you know about and want Repettos. Of course you feel stymied by their exclusivity, which makes them rather difficult to find. And once you do, of course you balk at the price. Oh, I’ve been there, friends, so listen to me when I say this:
If you aren’t ready to pony up the dough, I urge you, do not — do not — try on Repettos. Just don’t, because once you do, there’s no going back. It’s a bell that can’t be unrung, toothpaste that can’t be sucked back into the tube, for Repetto is, bar none, the most comfortable shoe you’ll ever wear. Repetto truly puts the “slipper” in “ballet slipper.” If your feet have known Repettos (if even for a moment in the shoe store), they’ll never let you forget it.
|A black, lace-patterned ballerine. Unavailable, of course.|
Last summer, my husband and I made our annual food-foraging trip to San Francisco, and in the weeks before, I began to hear Repetto’s siren song. For days on the Bay, I re-directed my attention toward other, less costly ballerines. “There can’t be that much difference,” I told myself as I contemplated stylish offerings from French Sole and J.Crew. But the soles felt stiff in my hand and inflexible on my feet. Toes cramped and heels pinched, alas, I just had to say non.
At last, I could no longer the resist the pull. My husband and I found ourselves in Hayes Valley, a smart and very San Fran-style neighborhood that Gimme Shoes calls home. One touch of Repetto’s lightweight shoe, with its buttery, hand-hewn leather, and I was a goner. I wore the shoes — classic ballerines of black lambskin with an ostrich-skin embossing — out of the store and on a three-mile walk to dinner and back to our hotel. My feet could not have been happier.
|Smörgåsbord? I’m on board!|
There is truly a difference between Repetto and wannabes. It’s not just that they cost nearly three times that of a similar J.Crew ballerine. It’s not just that so many stylish women have worn them in the 60 years they’ve been around. It’s not just that Repetto releases limited edition styles each season that become a sartorial snapshot in time (because “once they’re gone, they’re gone”).
It’s a simple matter, really: they’re well crafted from the finest materials available, and your feet know the difference. Repettos are made by hand, one pair at a time, by artisans in France’s Dordogne region, using old-world techniques sadly in decline in retail. The leather soles are sewn (never glued) to the vamp and dexterously turned inside out to create a flexible shoe that perfectly conforms to its wearer’s foot. This video shows beautiful craftsmanship alive and well at Repetto.
If you’ve taken the plunge with a gorgeous pair of Repettos, you’ll want to take the utmost care of them to maximize your investment. Though they feel delicate in the hand and on the foot, they’re so well made that I don’t find that they need to be especially babied. However, here are my suggestions for keeping your Repettos (or any good shoe) looking their best for years to come.
- Wear them for a few weeks to rough up the leather soles, then take them to your cobbler for a preemptive resoling. I’ve had a leather sole placed on each of my four pairs, and it’s just extra insurance that the shoe will last and the toe box won't be stubbed by every little crack in the sidewalk. It’ll run you $25 to $35, depending on your location, but it’s money well spent.
- When your ballerines are brand new out of the box, apply a drop or two of Dritz Fray Check to the cut ends of the bows to keep the cord from unraveling. Fray Check is a liquid sealant used by seamstresses to seal raw edges and prevent fraying. It’s only a few dollars and is available at fabric and craft stores. Splayed bow ends cheapen the look of your ballerines. Don’t let it happen.
|Fray Check? Check!|
- Keep the leather cleaned and moisturized. Lately, I’ve been using Apple leather cleaner and moisturizer, but there are many top-notch brands to choose from. Patent and suede need to be treated differently. You can dust off your patent leathers with a damp cloth, and gently freshen the nap on suede with a boar bristle brush.
In the course of retooling this post, I came across some lovely special editions of Repettos available at Colette, the hipper-than-thou, too-cool-for-school tastemaker in Paris, that I had to share.
|Marbled, like Florentine endpapers.|
|Crackled, like an Easter egg.|
|Spotted, like a leopard . . . or a cheetah . . . or is it a jaguar?|