“Adapt or perish,” Julio de Olives, the CEO of Grupo Mascaró tells us when we ask him about the Pretty Ballerinas concept store that opened in Barcelona
. This is a modest response bearing in mind that they have the largest collection of ballet shoes in the world. Innovation is in their DNA. Having launched over a decade ago through an e-commerce platform, Pretty Ballerinas
has reinvented itself with limitless imagination into an iconic shoe business model. It secured the omnichannel experience that is key to today’s retail approach before anyone else. Claudia Schiffer was the brand’s first spokesperson and Amal Clooney was the most recent addition to this elite group. Which includes the likes of Kate Moss, Olivia Palermo and Suri Cruise. Pretty Ballerinas is the perfect example of what happens when a hundred years of tradition join forces with new technologies …
-Pretty Ballerinas is the best example of creativity and innovation that has translated into results. It was founded as an e-commerce platform in 2005, and then in 2007, when you decided to make the jump into retail, you did so internationally, in London, to be exact. You broke all the rules in the playbook…
-At the start of the year 2000 we were probably one of the best manufacturers of ballerina flats in the world with a background that includes over 90 years of experience. And although we had a reputable sales rate within the Mascaró collection, we thought that the public was demanding something more. That’s why we made to the move to create Pretty Ballerinas: a very international brand concept with more than 300 different models made of the most outlandish materials and colors. That was also the reason for experimenting and launching it on the internet – a total challenge in 2005 – in order to easily reach buyers in major European capitals: London, Milan, Paris, Madrid… That’s why we opened our first store in London, in order to reinforce that cosmopolitan essence.
-Ballerina flats had been associated with more romantic and hyper-feminine looks until then, but PB began to give this classic shoe much more character by adding vibrant colors, assorted appliqués and finishes. Does the company have a ballerina for every style?
-We take old shoe lasts from the 50s and 60s, then renovate and develop them. We currently have 12 different styles of shoe lasts. We definitely have a ballerina shoe for every style. In fact we have the largest collection of ballerina shoes in the world, with more than 600 different samples per season. That’s one of the advantages of having our own factory; we can manufacture a limited number of pairs for each model.
-You offer traction soles, straw soles, sandals, even an occasional half-heel…. Are there any limits to reinventing the ballet flat silhouette?
-There are no limits. Design, imagination and inspiration are what matter most. The important thing is to be true to the “Pretty Ballerina” spirit.
-This year you’re even breaking into the sneakers market…
-The world has given in to the sneaker fad. We’ve been working on a design for some time now, using a shoe last that’s very unique and in keeping with the Pretty Ballerinas style. And we’ve finally launched #PrettySneakers, which is exceeding all of our highest expectations.
-In 2013, the PB universe grew with the Pretty Loafers spin-off. How is that brand currently doing?
-The goal of Pretty Loafers is to take advantage of the market segment for loafers and offer a flat shoe brand with a more rebellious and androgynous spirit that brings together the rest of the trends found in non-heel footwear. And it has been undeniably successful.
-You’ve also made inroads into the textile sector with a line of Perfecto jackets that capitalizes on your leatherwork expertise…. Are you considering diversifying definitively with new product lines?
-We always experiment with new lines as a Marketing Strategy and to draw the attention of the market and the customer. But our core business is women’s shoes. We’re shoemakers, and we always will be.
- PB’s origins date back to 1918. Nearly 100 years later, what lives on from your artisanal legacy?
- Manufacturing and our entire production unit remain in Ferrerías, in the same location where the first Mascaró generation began making ballerina shoes in 1918. And some of our employees are the sons, daughters and grandchildren of the craftsmen and women that began working with Pedro and Jaime Mascaró. So, although we’ve obviously begun to add new technologies to our process, the essence and many of the same procedures remain the same. You need to bear in mind that 60 different sets of hands manipulate every ballerina shoe before it’s completed.
-What materials do you use?
-We select the best materials. We have more than 1,500 different materials in our warehouses and databases. And we manufacture approximately 550,000 pairs per season.
-Do you have any top-selling models?
-The Rosario – Ref 35.663 – is the one we’ve sold the most of ever. It’s a ballerina flat with a rounded toe and thick cord that will still be around a hundred years from now.
-How many stores does Pretty Ballerinas have currently and how many new ones are you preparing to open?
-We currently have 70 stores. The next two grand openings will take place in Guatemala, the third in Chile and one in Melbourne.
-How many domains do you currently operate with regard to online sales?
-We have seven different domains because it’s important to provide each market with a site that is in its own language and has its own characteristics.
- What are PB’s strongest markets and where else does it still have the potential for growth?
-Right now they’re Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and, in general, all countries in the EU. Our goal is to conquer the United States and Asia.
-Could you describe the identity of your other two brands, Mascaró and Úrsula Mascaró?
meets the needs of a woman who, on a day-to-day basis, requires a hint of formalness and comfort for work and in life in general. Úrsula Mascaró
is a more high-fashion-oriented line, specializing in events and red carpet looks.
Headquarters: Polígono Industrial – Parcela 9, C/D. Ferreries (Menorca).
Production: 550,000 pairs per season.
Export rate: 70%.
Main markets: England, France and Italy.
Fairs: MICAM and White (Milan), GDS Düsseldorf, Pure London, Premium Berlin and Momad Shoes (Madrid).
Network of stores: 70.