Three experienced staff from FREED of London came to White Lodge today to fit each student with ballet shoes, as they do every term. Arriving early morning and staying the entire day, these ladies neatly lay out labelled pointe shoes on two long tables and underneath place organised stacks of shoe boxes, seemingly turning the studio into a shop.
Class after class we arrive to sit in a semi-circle with all our current working shoes, plus any unused pairs that we can either keep or exchange for a different size. In turn we approach the experts who ask us how we are getting on what we need. From flat leathers to satin soft blocks and from black character heels to pointe shoes, with endless patience the ladies from FREED hand out individual advice on what suits each foot type.
The new shoes will be delivered to our school within a week or two and we must then find the time to sew on ribbons and elastics, wearing pointe shoes around the dorms before lights out to shape them to our feet. As we progress through our training, our shoe orders increase in size and in value – for the girls in particular.
I was a young Italian girl who dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer when I first visited the FREED Shop in Covent Garden to be fitted for pointe shoes back in 2007. The same lovely lady who fitted me that day was at school to fit me today. Without referring to notes she greets me by name and recalls my foot type and preferences. This continuity, paired with the quality and individual tailoring of their shoes have made FREED of London a world market leader in pointe shoes since 1929.
For a virtual tour of the FREED factory with dancers from the Royal Ballet follow this link to see how pointe shoes are made.