Based in Rouen, Normandy, Maison Castille is a popular French line of ballerina flats that can be customized for any occasion. We sat down with Victoria, Maison Castille’s designer and founder, to see how it all began.
Hi Victoria, thank you for sitting down with us! How long has Maison Castille been running, and what propelled you to start this venture?
I launched Maison Castille in the summer of 2018. I had left my job in events when I took maternity leave with my third child; the hours were long, and had started to take too much away from my home life. Later, with my family situation allowing me time to fulfill my ambitions, I realized it was the optimum moment to launch something that I’d wanted to do since childhood. I took out my pencil case and drawing tools that I’d used during my interior architecture course and told my husband that I was having a fourth baby – Maison Castille!
Why did you choose ballerina flats? What do they represent in today’s fashion?
I chose this particular shoe because they’re very “me!” I’ve worn many pairs of ballerina flats over the years, and I was sad to see this style slowly disappearing from my closet – either because big brands didn’t deem it trendy or from a lack of quality distributors. I refused to see such a classically French model go off the radar, especially as we’re in a period where comfort (the explosion in popularity of sneakers is proof), quality and style are top in shoe priorities. For me, ballerina flats check all these boxes, while also being an elegant choice. They were part of the revolutionary changes in women’s fashion during the 1960s (along with short dresses, comfortable lingerie, etc.), so to me they also symbolize female freedom.
For many, the ballerina is very French. First worn by Brigitte Bardot, why do you think they have stayed so popular?
Yes, the first time we saw the shoe worn outside of the dance studio was on Brigitte Bardot in 1956. She asked Rose Repetto (Editor’s Note: founder of heritage brand Repetto dancewear) to adapt a pair of her famous dance shoes for general wear outdoors. Both Brigitte and ballerina flats were made famous by the cult film “Et Dieu… créa la femme” (“And God Created Woman”). This was big enough of a launch to guarantee them long-lasting popularity. Their simplicity, comfort and infinite color range make them a timeless choice for all occasions.
Which part of your job do you like the most? Designing, marketing, meeting new people?
By far and away, it’s the exceptional people that I get to meet. I also love to design and get my creative juices flowing. There’s nothing that I dislike doing, only things that I prefer to delegate!
You’re married and a mother to three children. Is it hard to combine your position as head of a company with that as a mother to a large family?
I don’t think it’s any more complicated than for any other woman with a demanding job. My husband and I have always been very busy with work, so organization is key, and life has to be planned rather logically. However, the lack of sleep is something else entirely…
What do your friends think about your job and your brand?
I’m lucky to have lots of people around me; therefore, a lot of support. My friends see that Maison Castille was the natural choice for me, and they all agree that the brand and my image is fueled by everything I naturally gravitate towards. The brand is a concentration of everything that I like: France, design, elegance, perfectionism, joy and respect for past generations!
Can it get lonely, creating a company on your own?
It can be… I often wonder if it would have been easier creating it with a partner so that I had someone to face the challenges with. However, I’m never usually in one place for very long – there’s always somewhere to be or someone to meet – so I’m rarely that lonely!
What advice would you give someone who wants to launch a fashion brand?
Be prepared! The fashion world is infamously ruthless. Not having worked in this domain before, I found it very difficult to find a way in. Everyone has to find the thing that makes them credible, and then learn how to infiltrate the industry. After that, it’s down to being persistent – something that I find most women are genetically gifted at!
What are your ambitions for Maison Castille?
There are so many! Naturally, I want to continue to give people as much pleasure in wearing my shoes as I get from creating them. I’d like the brand to be seen as an international emblem for quality French design and synonymous with female empowerment. Along with sustainability and long-lasting fashion, equal gender rights is a cause I feel very strongly about. I’d love to see my shoes worn by female ambassadors who share my values (Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman… if you’re listening!). And finally, because success isn’t success if you can’t share it, I’d like to work on a project with my husband, without whom this adventure wouldn’t have been the same.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2020 edition of My French Country Home.
Photography © Maison Castille