“You have dancing shoes with nimble soles” *

Ballet flats have been a fashion staple ever since Audrey Hepburn danced through Paris in the movie, Funny Face.

The film was released in 1957. In the same year, Parisienne pointe shoemaker, Rose Repetto, created the Repetto Ballerina, bringing the ballet shoe from the studio to the streets.

Women have loved the look and feel of the ballet flat for six decades with an explosion of labels in the last 20 years from London Sole, to Pretty Ballerinas, to Bloch’s extensive range packaged in sheer pink bags in pink boxes, to Bally’s latest style, Bally-rina.

Now, Sam Wagner, the director/designer of Sambag, has designed a capsule collection of ballet flats and totes, ready to be launched to coincide with the premiere of the Australian Ballet’s new production of Romeo & Juliet.

Wagner has signed a two-year sponsorship deal with the Australian Ballet, whose principal dancer, Olivia Bell, will represent the partnership in modelling and advertising.

This year and next, Sambag will be the major sponsor of the Australian Ballet’s Pointe Shoe Fund with part of the proceeds from the sale of the new range supporting the fund.

The female dancers of the Australian Ballet will receive a pair of Sambag flats and a tote as a gift, thus becoming walking advertisements for the collection. The range includes a key ring, two styles of flats, Juliet and Tina, and the limited edition tote, with the shoes and bag in various colours.

In Victoria, the collection will be available online and in store from September 13. That’s the day R&J premieres in Melbourne. The collection will be in stores in New South Wales and Western Australia from December 3, the date that the ballet opens at the Sydney Opera House.

There’s another link with ballet and fashion that goes back to 1967. The jeweller, Van Cleef & Arpels and George Balanchine both benefitted from pre-publicity for the choreographer’s ballet, Jewels.

As Nancy Goldner wrote in her book, Balanchine Variations, “before Jewels was a ballet it was a marketing strategy”. Someone spun the story that Balanchine was inspired to create Jewels by gazing at the windows of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Fifth Avenue boutique.

The media published stories showing Balanchine and his ballerinas bedecked in jewels inside the store. He had hoped that Van Cleef & Arpels might underwrite the ballet, but he had no such luck.

It wasn’t an unreasonable hope, though, as the jeweller had been making ballet-inspired jewellery throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Their collection of ballerina brooches, included the diamonds, rubies and emeralds piece, The Camargo, designed in 1942 and named after the dancer, Marie Camargo.

The very rich can still seek out Van Cleef & Arpel ballet necklaces named Giselle, Lully, Bayadere, Lac des Cygnes, Sacre du Printemps, Parade, Pulcinella, Serenade and Manon.

The rest of us must be content with this close up of the brooches.

* Romeo & Juliet, Act I, scene IV

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Sambag tote for Australian Ballet’s 50th anniversary

Sambag ballet keyring + Box

Sambag Juliet ballet flats

Sambag ballet flats, Tina

Bally-rina flats and bag

Van Cleef and Arpels brooch based on a painting by French artist, Nicolas Lancret, showing the 18th century dancer Marie Camargo

Van Cleef and Arpels ballerina brooch