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Icons of the Exchange: Pretty Ballerinas

The Spanish shoemaker’s versatile Rosario pump is a perfect blend of comfort and style

Pretty Ballerinas Rosario ballet flats

In 1918, in the pretty whitewashed town of Ferreries on the island of Menorca, cobbler Pedro Mascaró began making shoes for ballerinas. More than a century, and four generations of Mascarós, later Pretty Ballerinas is one of Menorca’s most successful exports.

Pedro Mascaró’s original creations would have served a specific purpose for a demanding profession, but it was his youngest son, Jaime, who decided to give the product wider fashion appeal, by adding a small leather heel to his father’s designs. In 2004, businessman David Bell stepped in and gave the brand its Pretty Ballerinas moniker; officially relaunching a year later. Today, Pretty Ballerinas boutiques are found all over the world — from Barcelona to Beverly Hills — and have been spotted on the feet of Kate Moss, Olivia Palermo, and the Duchess of Cambridge, among others.

Original lasts from Mascaró, 1918; Pedro Mascaró and his team of shoemakers Original lasts from Mascaró, 1918; Pedro Mascaró and his team of shoemakers

It would no doubt be pleasing to Señor Mascaró that the family business is still going strong (albeit in a new pair of hands) and that everything is still made to traditional standards in Menorca. Around 2,000 pairs of Pretty Ballerinas shoes leave the sunkissed shores of the Balearic island every day. Each pair is handcrafted from ethically sourced materials and goes through some 60 craftsmen and women before reaching your feet.

‘Pretty Ballerinas is a special brand because our team really care about making the best shoes they possibly can, with the best materials available in the world,’ says Bell. ‘Our materials are sourced from the best companies in the world – tanneries in Italy and Spain for the leathers, the finest grosgrain ribbon and trims from Japan, the best thread for stitching from Germany, and the best technical components (such as memory foam for cushioning the footbed and stiffeners to support the back of the foot) from the USA.’

Pretty Ballerinas shoes are renowned for their comfort and feminine aesthetic; many featuring bright colours, patterns and crystal embellishments. Although the styles themselves have evolved in ways Pedro Mascaró could never have envisaged – including contemporary mules, loafers and even sneaker models – the brand has never succumbed to the pressure of going ‘high’. Stiletto maestro Christian Louboutin once said that ‘high heels are pleasure with pain’, but when it comes to Pretty Ballerinas, style and comfort are never compromised.

Pretty Ballerinas being handcrafted Each pair of Pretty Ballerinas is handcrafted from ethically sourced materials

The brand’s bestseller, the Rosario, made its debut in 2007 after customers requested a lower-cut design. All Pretty Ballerinas shoes have female names, inspired by glamorous real-life women. Early designs took their monikers from famous faces du jour, such as Audrey Hepburn, Faye Dunaway and Ella Fitzgerald, and the Rosario was named after Rosario Nadal, AKA the Princess of Preslav. This dainty shoe is the quintessential Pretty Ballerinas pump. The simple round-toed shape, with a sturdy leather sole, is finished with an elegant bow. It’s an eminently versatile model that comes in a variety of styles; from plain black leather to the show-stopping new season’s zebra print with strawberry toe and lime-coloured trim, and snakeskin with scarlet bow (pictured top).

Bell describes the essence of the brand as ‘fun, fashion, feminine and fit (as in the shoes fit perfectly)’. He explains that the majority of Pretty Ballerinas’ customers are busy women who appreciate the fashionable but flat-soled designs because ‘they go with their lifestyle rather than hindering it’. Catering to this loyal customer base is of the utmost importance to the brand. ‘We offer a myriad of new options every season,’ says Bell. But they also keep a permanent collection of classic Pretty Ballerina styles: ‘We have a “never out of stock” philosophy on our 22 bestselling models, so we can always assure the customer that when an old pair finally wears out, they can replace a well-loved friend with a new pair that is just the same,’ explains Bell.

Dressed up for a night out or simply to wear around the house, it’s easy to see why Rosario won’t be going out of fashion any time soon.


See the Pretty Ballerinas design and making process in action:

Pretty Ballerinas Rosario ballerina flats start from £149; Pretty Ballerinas

The Royal Exchange celebrates its 450th anniversary this year. Our Icons of the Exchange series pays homage to the exceptional array of retailers that call The Royal Exchange home, with a look at the heritage, design and craftsmanship of products that epitomise the essence and excellence of our celebrated brands.

We look forward to welcoming you to The Royal Exchange during 2021, for a considered shopping experience in spectacular and historic surroundings. Please visit our boutiques page for regular updates on our retailers’ opening information and hours, as well as details about virtual appointments and click and collect services.

Visit our heritage page to learn more about the history of The Royal Exchange and keep an eye on our 450 Years site, journal and Instagram for more fascinating facts and insights about its past and present as we commemorate this special milestone throughout the year ahead.