Going through the Ursanina photo archive, I stumbled upon this one - the very first three pairs of ballerinas I created exactly 8 years ago in April 2011! I never thought they would become such a hit and I’m happy you like wearing them so much.
I often get asked how the story with ballerinas started, so I decided to write down why and how I started designing them.
MY MUSE – MY MOM.
My mom has always had trouble finding comfortable shoes that wouldn’t hurt her feet while walking. The thickened bone and joint problems severely limited her choice of shoes she could buy in stores, so I decided to try to make footwear that would be soft and flexible enough to fit her feet and wouldn’t irritate or oppress them while walking. Apparently, I succeeded, as she is still, to this day, happy to wear Ursanina ballerinas.
THE COLD, THE HEAT AND ESPADRILLES.
My feet often get cold in winter and overheat in summer or late spring. It’s easy in winter - I just wear woollen socks and woollen insoles. Problem solved!
However, in the warmer months I get frustrated when it is still too cold for sandals while too warm to wear closed shoes with socks. I like ballerina flats but can't stand the leather ones nor those made of artificial materials. Wearing them without socks my feet soon start to fire up, the sweat starts to accumulate in my shoes, and I get blisters on my toes and heel area. Ballerinas with the cotton socks are a 'no-go' for me because I just don't like the look. And nylon socks … well, I simply hate them. Always did, always will. Then there are those little ballerina socks that like to stick out at the front, as the cut of the socks is usually not compatible with the cut of the ballerinas. If by any chance both cuts accidentally align, they certainly slide off my heel. I’m trying to figure out how to glue them to my feet while pulling them out from under the arch.
For me, things just must be practical.
I’ve always worn my woollen felt slippers barefoot. So, I was struck by the idea of trying to make ‘slippers’ that would also be suitable to wear outdoors.
I remembered the only closed summer shoes I ever liked to wear barefoot were espadrilles. Do you remember them as well? ;) They were a real hit in the 80's! I had at least 5 pairs, each in a different colour. The upper part was canvas, and the sole was made of natural rope. So, in my head I put together a cross between my wool slippers and 80’s espadrilles. Felt sole with the canvas upper part - this must be a hit!
THE SHAPE TO MY TASTE
I don't seem to like espadrilles anymore - they simply don’t fit my style no more. I wanted a more elegant version. I wanted ballerinas that are cut just enough to cover all the toes and still stay safely on the foot. I wanted a rounder shape at the toe area so that the toes are not squeezed together and have enough space to stay in a natural position.
When I mention barefoot walking, I’m talking about walking that comes as close as possible to walking without shoes. The way people walked before the designer pointy shoes that squeeze the toes, when there were no engineers and designers for all sorts of specialized footwear that supports the arch, lifts and stabilizes, supports the ankles, ... How did they do it, we wonder? Well, children were not made to wear stiff shoes and slippers with a hard thick sole and an orthopaedic insole in their early childhood, but were allowed to strengthen all their foot muscles, bones, and joints, enabling themselves a correct, healthy and natural body position. We want our feet to develop without support and aids the same way as we don’t learn to walk with the help of crutches. It’s footwear in which you feel the ground under your feet, you feel the difference when you walk on grass or rocks, asphalt, or pavers. At the same time, you enable a strong and stable posture, as well as strengthen all foot muscles in the most natural way.
Ursanina ballerinas have a soft, light, and extremely flexible sole, just thick enough to protect and just thin enough to feel grounded. Our original Ballerinas do have a slightly raised 5 mm heel, but they still feel like comfy slippers. And if even 5mm rise at the heel is too much for you, we offer a Barefoot-friendly Ballerina Flats edition with a completely flat heel.
THE TRAVELS. For half of my life, I have been singing in a large Slovenian vocal group Perpetuum Jazzile, travelling around the world quite often. And I’ve always struggled with packing. Especially the shoes. They take up a lot of space, they are quite heavy, and we would usually need many for different occasions. Our tours usually only took a few days, but we spent most of our time on the bus or plane, often sleeping there as well. From the hotel we used to rush to the sound-check, followed by a concert, standing and dancing in very high heels for up to 2 hours. Such mini tour may also include a fancy reception or a nice dinner and perhaps a short stroll around the city. So, I needed shoes that are comfortable enough for long bus and plane rides, hotel shoes that I can use as slippers, something nice for the strolls around the town, something for medium-fancy social events and something for a few hours of rehearsing. Something that doesn’t take up half of my always-too-small suitcase and doesn’t add too much to the overall weight of the luggage.
And it seems I have succeeded – Ursanina ballerinas are feather light (approx. 150 g per pair) and make up the size of a folded Cosmopolitan. Voilà, you can thank me later! ;)
PIMP UP MY SHOE
Soon after the first pairs of Ursanina ballerinas were made, I felt like they needed an upgrade. Something to pimp them up! At the time, all Ursanina slippers were decorated with flowers or butterflies. So I thought, why not upgrade the Ballerina look as well. As I thought, decorations might get dirty wearing them out on the street, so I should try to design leather decorations.
But if I sew or glue on the décor, I might miss the plain version of ballerinas. Not all of us like to be too girly all the time. And not all the different occasions and outfits call for an upgrade. The ‘’aha’’ moment came in the form of shoe clips!
On, off, single or in a pair, same colour or different colours, mixing and matching with different colours of ballerinas and different colours of the shoe clips… the combinations are nearly endless.
Here are some other photos of the first ever made Ursanina ballerinas.
What are your thoughts?
How do you like them?
Feel free to leave a comment below!