Interview with Alain Rondini, Les Sandales Tropeziennes

Sandales Tropéziennes RondiniSandales Tropéziennes RondiniSandales Tropéziennes Rondini

They used to say ‘see Naples and die’, but I say it of Saint Tropez.  This little gem of a village, discovered by Brigitte Bardot, is synonymous with the luxurious lifestyle of the rich and famous; impressive yachts rival one another along the quays lined with top designer boutiques and fashionable cocktail bars where you can watch and be watched.  Madonna, Tom Cruise, Karl Lagerfeld, … For some, it is all they will see, and they’ll be perfectly happy. But step away from this dazzling façade, into the heart of a charming fishing village and you’ll be rewarded with one of its best kept secrets: L’Atelier Rondini.

Founded in 1927, when Dominique Rondini arrived in Saint Tropez from Tuscany, his family continues to create the iconic tropezienne sandal, still very much the must-have shoe of the summer season.

Eighty-five years on, passing from father to son, the atelier continues to thrive in its original location and each shoe is carefully created in the workshop, behind the boutique. Today it is run by Dominique Rondini’s grandson, Alain, who told me how the sandal became so famous.

‘After moving to Saint Tropez, my grandfather realised that being by the sea there was a huge demand for open shoes which is why he began making sandals,’ adding that, ‘one of the Rondinis’ first clients was the famous French novelist, Colette, who brought back a pair of sandals from her trip to Greece and asked my grandfather to replicate the model,’ a hugely popular design which Alain still produces today.

‘Colette had problems with her feet which meant she was almost always wearing her sandals,’ explains Alain.

‘Being such an avid traveller, she was photographed across the world, even wearing her Rondini sandals in front of the World Trade Centre. At that time, it was most uncommon for a woman to show her feet and people often remarked upon it, even joking ‘does she write with her feet?’’

He goes on to tell me that many other stars followed in Colette’s footsteps (literally!), from Marlene Dietrich to Ines de la Fressange, but despite acquiring such a cult following, Rondini refused to expand the business beyond Saint Tropez, preferring to spend time improving the quality, comfort and style of the sandals rather than succumb to market pressure.

‘When my father took over the business, he was visited by the French designer Michel Klein who was taken by the modest design but keen to see more colours. It was my father who added new designs and colours to the collection inspired by the exotic lands of the Sahara, Egypt and India and by the time I began working alongside him, at 18 years old, we were in need of extra help to meet the demands of our clients,’ recalls Alain with the same passion of a newcomer to the business.

‘Despite suggestions of producing larger quantities, my priority has always been to improve and perfect the existing models. I do not want to sacrifice the quality of the materials in order to sell more.’

In a society where one is constantly bombarded with advertising and encouraged to spend, I ask Rondini how he has managed to attract fans from around the world without any advertising.

‘The Atelier Rondini has always relied on the word of mouth. A couple of months ago, during the Cannes Film Festival, we were visited by Arpad Busson and his wife Uma Thurman. Arpad remembered his mother’s great praise for the sandales tropéziennes Rondini. She had a collection of more than thirty pairs! It was for this reason that he decided to introduce his wife to the brand,’ explains Alain.

Chez Rondini you won’t find any pre-packed shoe boxes and foot size becomes irrelevant as each pair is fitted directly to the customer’s feet and adjusted in their workshop and yet this hasn’t stopped requests coming in from across Europe and America.

Rondini believes that everyone should ‘step into Saint Tropez at least once in a lifetime’ and I would add that the experience is not quite complete until you step back out in a pair of Rondinis !

Atelier Rondini, 18 Rue Georges Clemenceau, 83990 Saint-Tropez

Sandales Tropéziennes RondiniSandales Tropéziennes RondiniRondini

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Comments:

  1. Hi to all, I also love tropeziennes made by RONDINI in Saint tropez in their workshop. These are the original tropeziennes and now you can buy their sandals on their website / e-shop : http://www.rondini.fr

    • Hi Miss Tropezienne,

      Thanks for your comment! I have added the website link to the article, thanks :)

      Sophia x

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