BP ATELIER 22

Interview to Gemma Serra, Ball Pagès designer

24 Jul 2017

Born in Cataluña, home base in France; how do these two different cultures inspire you?

To me my Catalan roots evoke everything traditional and France, France is my getaway car, my wings, what gave me the freedom and the possibility to broaden my horizon. France has allowed me to reinterpret a shoe that I have known my whole life, which has accompanied me throughout my personal endeavours and my career and that I can now share with the entire world.

When did the idea for BALL PAGÈS come about?

Ball Pagès was first born in the spring of 2013 but I was given my first pair of espadrilles approximately 20 years ago. The first time I ever saw them was on the feet of someone very special to me; a woman whom i wished to be like when I grew up. She was a traveller, a creative mind, a hard worker… cultured, free. I told her I loved these shoes and a few weeks later she gave me my first pair. from that point onwards I have not spent a single summer without a pair, every three or four years I’d purchase a new pair but they were never easy to come by.

One afternoon in 2013 I was hurrying to pick up my kids from the nursery and on the way a girl stopped me and asked if she could take my picture. It was Garance Doré! She was just passing through Toulouse to visit her friend Carole Benazet from the Départament Féminin. That’s how I met Carole and as of that day we saw each other frequently to go to the cinema, share a meal or just a glass of red wine.

On one of these days I was on my way to meet Carole and was wearing my espadrilles, two girls stopped me and asked where I had gotten them. As soon as I saw her, I told her with great amusement what had happened. Her and I had been talking about doing something together professionally for a while now so I said to her, “you have to sell them on DF.” Carole replied, “Prepare a collection and I will sell them.”

From that point on, and with the unconditional help of my parents Salva and Marissa and my husband Jean-Romain who is a partner at the architecture department at Atemps Architecture, we gave life to a magnificent project; the birth of BALL PAGÈS. Together we familiarised ourselves with the savoir-faire of the artisans, followed their traditional codes and, simultaneously, modernised the design of the espadrilles, this way they’d become more accessible to the whole mediterranean area where the love for simplicity, tradition and nature rules.

It seemed like it could work so we set up a small family business and we dove right in. Salva is an industrial engineer so he takes care of administration and organisation, Marisa brings emotional intelligence to the table and takes care of the atelier and I’m in charge of the design and the brand image. I would never have pictured us working together but the truth is that we complement each other really well and BALL PAGÈS is definitely the result of our great team work.

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You are also an architect, do you think that has somehow influenced the concept or the design of your brand?

I can’t think of the two things as separate; for me architecture and BALL PAGÈS go hand in hand. When we construct a building, the materials we choose and the way in which it is brought together need to be coherent with the project, one side of it can’t work without the other. It’s the same with the espadrilles; you can’t separate the pitta from the shoe when you are using a traditional way of fabricating them. For me shoes are a type of architecture and I draw this architecture, bring it to life like an artisan.
What is the added value of the espadrilles?
Their atemporality, their simplicity, their sophistication and their loyalty to tradition and to nature. BALL PAGÈS is a unique espadrille; exclusive, hand made and 100% traditional. They don’t try to turn against fashion, on the contrary, they try to find a place within it for the long run, above and beyond ephemeral trends. Our shoes are form and concept at once, they harmonise with their current context, but at the same time tell stories about the one who wears them, about a universe particular to that one person.

For this new collection there has been a change, an evolution in the materials of choice, what do these changes consist in?

The biggest change, or evolution as we like to say, has been to include leather as a material which is in contact with the skin, so for the lining, the sole… of course always maintaining sisal as our primary material.  Not everyone is used to wearing cactus on their feet, we understand that so we decided to adapt our shoe to our clients needs, at the same time keeping up the original essence of the product and waiting for people to discover that there are other ways to dress your feet than the conventional ones.

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You always hold that BALL PAGÈS is way of wearing espadrilles in an urban concept. how do you imagine a woman who would wear them?

I picture a women who loves to travel, who is creative, who is hard working, cultured and free.

Which countries, would you say, have been the most receptive towards your brand?

Japan, France and the USA.

Some brands have shamelessly copied your designs, what sorts of legal solutions do you work with in these cases and how do you think this should be fought?

It’s very difficult to avoid copying, especially with a brand as small as ours. For us it’s the best motivation to keep working on producing a better product of better quality. Our focus is much more on improving, on creating, always with one eye on the future and another on our origins. We never forget where we started. The possibilities of creation are infinite, they can keep copying our designs, but they cannot imitate our soul, our love and the effort we put into every single one of our shoes.

BALL PAGÈS is one of the brands on display at Coquette. How do you think your brand fits in with the concept of the store?

I think it fits in perfectly! Isabel is a very special woman. Her selection is sensible and has a lot of character, for me it speaks perfectly to a woman who is “a traveller, a creative mind, a hard worker… cultured and free.” At BALL PAGÈS we’re very proud to be part of her project.

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