In their most recent international partnership, the Spanish sustainable fashion brand provides the uniforms for the Swiss watch group’s employees.
The company celebrates 20 years of groundbreaking designs with grand openings in emblematic locations, innovations in digital environments, commemorative collections and the use of new materials.
“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?-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. Pretty Ballerinas: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.Website: www.prettyballerinas.es
We asked Mariano García Forcada, Director and Designer of Protocolo, flat out, “doesn’t protocol stipulate that nothing else should take attention away from the bride?” “But a well-dressed groom makes a bride shine even brighter,” he responded. If there’s anyone that knows about style and distinction, it’s Mariano. As a member of the fourth generation of a family whose tradition in the textile industry dates back to 1908, he has spearheaded the internationalization of this company that focuses on providing men’s fashion for ceremonies and formal events. After the recent grand opening of their first store in Colombia, he spoke to us about trends, growth and digitalization. All of this is veiled within the context of their silver anniversary… and they steadfastly raise their glasses with all eyes set on celebrating their fiftieth! -When and why did you decide to specialize in formalwear for men? -Twenty-five years ago there were no stores that specialized exclusively in dressing grooms and groomsmen. We had a multi-brand store, Tenorio, in the city of Zaragoza. We sold so many groom’s suits there that we came up with the idea of opening the first Protocolo store, dedicated exclusively to dressing men at their milestone moments and events, including their weddings. -How are you celebrating your 25th anniversary?-We’ve programmed a series of activities that add a little something extra with regard to our Novios de Protocolo Cava, all of which fit neatly under our celebratory concept of “25 years of keeping the pace with wedding tradition.” We’ve already shown an advance of the 2017 collection at the Madrid Fashion Show and we’re getting ready to present a total look to our international clients and franchises at Barcelona Bridal Week.Plus, we’ve just opened a store in Medellín, Colombia. In Mexico we’ll be setting up commemorative exhibit of these last 25 years in the very near future. And, as a result of the experience and knowledge we’ve gained over all these years, we’re preparing a “protocol tool for knowing what to wear.” They’re tutorial videos where we explain everything from how to tie a bowtie to what sorts of events call for morning coats, tuxedos or white-tie attire. -Any digitalization plans…?-Of course. In today’s market we have to be in touch with our customers. We’re on all the social media channels and we have a blog at www.elprotocolodelsabervestir.com.We’ll begin selling accessories online before the summer. -Protocolo presents one collection a year. How many lines are in the catalog? -We have one line for formal occasions that’s made up of our full evening dress range and the different types of morning coats, that run the gamut from the most classic styles, with pinstripes, to the English version which is slightly shorter and has matching trousers. As for our tuxedo line, we offer the classic version with shawl collars, or more colorful styles that have peaked lapels, in addition to a variety that are made in velvet. Lastly, our most up-to-date line of suits includes styles that have varying lengths made of fabrics in black, hues of blue or grey, with prints and assorted silhouettes. We also offer suit ensembles that match to perfection with our range of accessories, including shirts, shoes, ties, waistcoats, ascots, cufflinks... -You’ve pivoted your approach to provide a total look for grooms and their groomsmen, but you also dress pages, ring bearers and other male members of the wedding party. -The pages are our junior grooms. We design morning coats and suits for them that match the groom’s. For other wedding party members, we have a full collection of morning coats and suits in special fabrics and designs. -How many do you produce a year?-Right now our production is at roughly 5,000 suits per collection. Add to that all of the accessories and bespoke suits. -What fabrics and materials do you work with?-Wool and silk, pure wools, mixtures of wool and viscose, wool and polyester…. Each suit and style is identified by its fabric. When we go through the samples, the first thing we look for is design, quality and lastly, price. We can state for the record that we work with the best fabric manufacturers. The shoes are always leather and patent leather. -What are the latest trends in formal attire?-Right now morning jackets have been using the same fabric for the frock coat as well as the trousers and they cover a full range of greys and blues, not just black; plus they come in different lengths and styles. Tuxedos are being made with draped and special occasion fabrics, and blazers that come in colors like blue and black are preferred. Suits are being made in skinny silhouettes with printed fabrics and contrasting colors, blue being the favorite. -Where does Protocolo have a presence? Which markets?-In the Latin American market, in Mexico, we have our flagship store on Avenida Presidente Masaryk de Colonia Polanco in Mexico City and three ‘stores within a store’ in the Salón Inglés of the Palacio de Hierro department store chain. In Colombia we’ve just opened a franchise in Medellín and we’re set to open another in Bogota before the end of the year. We also sell in Brazil through multi-brand stores. In Europe we have multi-brand points of sale in France, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain, where we also have our own stores, four franchises and corner shops at El Corte Inglés.In all they amount to 62 points of sale. Our current export rate is 15% and our goal is to raise that to 40% over the next two years. - And where do you see the potential for growth?-Latin America is our main target market. And we’re currently stepping up our game in European countries like France, the Benelux region and Germany with help from our team of distribution agents. About Protocolo:Headquarters: C/Efedra 9, Naves C35 y C36. 50720, La Cartuja Baja, Zaragoza.Markets: Mexico, Colombia and Europe.Points of sale: 62.Annual production: 5,000 suits plus bespoke services and accessories.Export rate: 15%.Trade shows: Barcelona Bridal Week and Intermoda (Mexico).Website: www.protocolonovios.com
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