Yesterday, the tropézienne was at the feet of the artists on vacation in Saint-Tropez. Actors, painters, writers: Colette, Picasso, Cocteau, Madeleine Renaud, Brigitte Bardot, Romy Schneider, Alain Delon, Marlène Dietrich, Françoise Giroud, Catherine Deneuve… Today, it is worn by people from all walks of life in around the world: Kim Kardashian, Marion Cotillard, Angelina Jolie, Kate Moss, Pénélope Cruz, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Jessica Alba or even Michelle Obama… from its flat sole on the catwalk to the barefoot stars of summer wardrobes, straps firmly attached to celebrity.
The story of the mythical strappy sandal goes with the rise of Saint-Tropez, a humble fishing village painted in ocher, yellow and orange, with picturesque alleys with a unique atmosphere, which has become one of the favorite of stars and jet-setters, known worldwide for its indestructible beauty as well as for the constant parade of sumptuous yachts in its bright little port.
When it took its first steps in the 1920s, the tropézienne was not the casual and refined shoe that went with the perfect luxury of the posh seaside town: it was just an ordinary gladiator with straps, leather sole thick, created for the fishermen of the hamlet. The tropézienne begins by being a local sandal, handcrafted, based on traditional know-how. It is when Saint-Tropez becomes a legendary Saint-Tropez that it will triumph, a symbol of authenticity as well as elegance and style. A must-have for women’s wardrobes.
Rondini and Keklikian
In Saint-Tropez, the real tropézienne has two essential historical manufacturers, with worldwide notoriety. Two family businesses: the Rondinis and the Keklikians. Some come from Italy, others from Armenia. Domenico Rondini was the first to open a workshop, in 1927: the shop on rue Clemenceau, a stone’s throw from the port, is still there, almost a century later. Without ostentation, the oldest house displays the discreet and timeless inscription “sandals tropéziennes” on the pediment. The Rondini, around thirty models, is made by hand, in limited quantities: 13,000 pairs per year.
Jacques Keklikian had followed in Rondini’s footsteps in 1933, launching himself into the Tropezian sandal, in a small boutique workshop on rue Allard. The K.Jacques brand, 90 years later, has two stores in the center of Saint-Tropez, but its workshop has taken up residence and its ease in a craft area on the Route des Plages, to take on the growth of its production, a volume of 50,000 pairs per year, 60% of which are exported, a tropézienne available in dozens of combinations of colours, models and materials.
The tropézienne is a model copied and recopied. By French sandal craftsmen, such as Max Vincent in Romans-sur-Isère, in the Drôme, which is handmade, but also by an industrialized production of Tropezian Spartans, which has intensified since the 1980s. Countless brands have thus made accessible to the greatest number of models that are cheaper but of lower quality, made in Italy, but also in China or India, including Les Tropéziennes by M. Belarbi, owned by Dresco, a subsidiary of the Eram group, with a strong reputation. Rondini and K.Jacques, the two sizes of the artisanal sandal made in Saint-Tropez, have miraculously withstood their competitors, high-end talents of the iconic flat shoe, each handcrafted pair of which takes an average of one hour of work and shoes for years. Timeless and indestructible.