Dance Retailer News
by Jennifer Brewer
Aleksandra Efimova, president of Russian Pointe, was born in Russia and moved to the U.S. with her mother when she was 16 years old. Having danced in Russia, she knew shoemakers who had opened their own factory when former USSR began to allow free enterprise. As a college student, Efimova was president of the entrepreneurship club, and started Russian Pointe as a business venture to pay for her college tuition.
DRN: What is so special about Russian Pointe shoes?
AE: The most beautiful thing about our shoes is that we have five models, four widths, three vamps and 10 shanks, making more then 600 combinations in each size. At first distributors are frustrated by so many options, but they learn what sells the most. I believe in having options-a unique model design and a wide assortment of shoes offer dancers choices in selecting the proper fit. Dancers need to take care when making their selection of this important tool.
DRN: Do your shoes vary according to techniques of springing or rolling onto pointe?
AE: Yes, we have standard shanks for springing and flexible shanks for rolling. There are six strengths in standard shanks and four strengths in flexible shanks. Flexible shanks are slightly thinner under the ball of the foot.
DRN: What sells the best in the U.S.? Do American dancers have different requirements from Russian dancers?
AE: We sell the flexible shanks most, in the first three strengths. There is a dramatic difference between what American and Russian dancers demand, and we have made some enhancements in the shoes we offer. For example, In all models we have lowered the cut on the sides. Dancers like this because it opens up the foot.
DRN: Do you work with dancers to find out what they need?
AE: I try to stay as close as possible to the dancers who will be using the shoes. I believe the only way you learn is by working and talking with them. A couple of times a month I do fittings at schools, where I find out what the dancers like and don't like. I pass a lot of that feedback on to the factory, letting them know what we're looking for and what needs have not yet been met.
DRN: Do you have a new model at this time? What is different about it?
AE: The Polette, developed specially for the U.S. market, is being introduced this summer. We made it as roomy as possible inside, while maintaining a graceful, compact and delicate appearance outside. The box is much wider, shaped to accommodate a dancer with a wider foot. There is more of a U than a V shape in the vamp, which also offers more room to the dancers with wider feet. The Polette also has a drawstring, which many customers requested.
DRN: Is it bad for retailers' business when you do school fittings?
AE: Actually, it's very good for their business. When I introduce a shoe to dancers in a school, it is a one-time thing. In the months afterward, retailers tend to have a boost in their sales of that shoe.
DRN: Has Russian shoemaking changed in recent years?
AE: There is more money for equipment now, more money for research and better quality materials. Russian Pointe combines traditional manufacturing processes with new technologies.
DRN: What is most important to you about your company?
AE: I believe in searching for a creative solution to any problem that one may face. It is critical to introduce an innovative approach to a problem. It is a true honor to represent a line made by cobblers I consider to be the best in the world.