Designs just for Singapore women

Mr David Bell (left) of Pretty Ballerinas. F J Benjamin will send its in-house designers to Spain to work with the brand's designers.
Mr David Bell (left) of Pretty Ballerinas. F J Benjamin will send its in-house designers to Spain to work with the brand's designers.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

Pretty Ballerinas' chief executive officer David Bell says customers here have requested styles more appropriate for the humid climate

Ask and it shall be given.

That appears to be the mantra of Pretty Ballerinas, the popular ballerina pump and flat-shoe brand from Spain - at least where its customers in Singapore are concerned.

It opened its first store here last year and its chief executive officer, Mr David Bell, says the company is coming up with designs specifically for the Singapore market.

Customers here have asked for more climate-appropriate styles, such as shoes with open-toe designs and espadrilles as well as ones with more padding.

And so, fashion and lifestyle group F J Benjamin, which brought in the brand, is sending its in-house designers to Menorca, Spain, where the company is headquartered, to work with the brand's designers on specific designs just for the Singapore market, such as flats with a quilted footbed.

Mr Bell is more than happy to comply.

Says the 48-year-old: "Customers who volunteer what they would like to buy makes our job easy. We want to give them exactly what they want."

Pretty Ballerinas, launched in 2005, is best known for its colourful and comfortable ballerinas and flat shoes.

Prices range from $160 (for children's sizes) to $560 and styles are named after 1960s screen legends such as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.

New designs are sent to the store here every two weeks. One of the brand's claims to fame is that model Kate Moss' bridesmaids wore its shoes for her 2011 wedding to musician Jamie Hince.

The brand is owned by the Mascaro family, who have been making ballet slippers since 1918 in Menorca.

Mr Bell joined the Mascaro company when he married third-generation Ms Ursula Mascaro.

They divorced in 2011 and he continues to run Pretty Ballerinas. Mascaro also owns other shoe brands.

Pretty Ballerinas started as an online store and opened its first boutique in Mayfair, London, in 2007. There are now 76 stores in places such as the United States and the Middle East.

It entered the Asian market in 2011 with a store in Taiwan and has opened stores in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan.

In Singapore, it started with a 230 sq feet store at Paragon, but because of customer demand, it relocated to another store twice the size within the shopping centre in the same year.

On what he attributes to Pretty Ballerinas' success, Mr Bell says: We use the best materials and craftsmen. We have been making ballerinas for a long time."

He says some of the shoemakers for Pretty Ballerinas have been working for Mascaro for an average of 34 years.

Although F J Benjamin declines to reveal how well the brand is doing here, Mr Bell lists Singapore as its best-performing market in Asia and notes that the ballerina-style shoes do better in Asia than in Europe or the US.

He says: "I think Asian women like the round-toe silhouette. With their small feet, it looks cute."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2016, with the headline 'Designs just for Singapore women'. Print Edition | Subscribe