Interview with Christophe Ridet, founder of Wear Moi
Please tell us about your career as a professional dancer
I should first tell you that my path was not a typical one. From an artistic point of view, my path was the exact opposite of a traditional dancer. I began with jazz and contemporary dance lessons because I was inspired by two movies that made a big impression on me in my youth: "Saturday Night Fever" and "West Side Story". Back then, I was one of the few boys in my dance class.
A few years later, when I was around 15, my mindset changed and dance become a much more serious passion. I understand that I needed to get into classical dance to ensure my continued progress.
In 1983, when I had just turned 17, I began going to professional dance auditions. I was hired by a contemporary dance company with a troupe of 10. It was led by Brigitte Lefevre, a famous dancer and choreographer who had overseen the Opéra de Paris for nearly 20 years. I think she immediately saw my potential. I was a young man bursting with energy straight out of Bourg-en-Bresse with a head full of dreams.
That's when we began touring and I started seeing the world. I took an airplane for the first time in my life to go to Hong Kong for a two-month tour of Asia.
The company shut down, which is why I joined the company of the Ballet de Tours, which was run by Jean-Christophe Maillot, who now is the director of the Ballets de Monte Carlo. That's where I met Ronald Darden, the company's balletmaster, who quickly became my mentor. He is the one who introduced me to classical dance and American culture. After that, I auditioned successfully for the Ballets de Monte Carlo, one of the most admired classical dance companies in the world, under the direction of Jean-Yves Esquerre.
I was injured in 1992 when I failed to land a jump properly. I was 26 years old. I decided not to continue my career as a dancer and to focus on my goal of fully investing in the Wear Moi project.
Can you tell us the inspiration for the brand's name?
The idea for the company name goes back to when I was a member of the Ballets de Monte Carlo. That is where I met Mark Zappone, who headed up the costume department. It is important to note that Mark is American — from Seattle.
When I had to make the costumes for the choreography workshop in 1991, Mark gave me a hand and let me use his studio. His studio is where I crafted my very first designs. I spent whole days talking to Mark in English, while we sewed and drank coffee.
Not long after, the idea to create a brand took root and we needed a name. I instantly thought of a subliminal message to help sell my designs. "Achète-moi" which means "Buy me"? Too direct. How about "Portez-moi" ("Wear me")? I didn't like the sound of it in French. "Wear me"? Then we lose the French touch.
Which is how we came to "Wear Moi": a mix of French and English, a language whose culture already fascinated me back then. The name perfectly embodies what I was experiencing 30 years ago.
How is Wear Moi different from other dancewear brands?
Today, I think the difference comes from our vision of our company. It's important to know that now, 30 years later, we are still running Wear Moi. After all, Elisabeth and I founded Wear Moi in 1992. Since then, we have been fully involved in desiging and developing our products. From choosing fabrics and other raw materials to the final fittings, we are still active participants and decision makers.
We want to continue to ensure the quality of our products, in terms of design development and our artistic vision for the brand. Since the beginning, we have applied a rigorous approach with an unwavering goal: the constant pursuit of excellence. Our objective today is to be the best at what we do. These have always been the values that guide our daily actions. That mentality stems in large part from our respective careers as professional dancers because ballet is a world where discipline, exacting standards and perfection are a must. Moreover, our experience gives us unique insight into the very specific clothing needs of dancers. We know what it takes to find the perfect balance between comfort and performance.
As the founder of the brand, what are you most proud of today?
I would say that my greatest source of pride is how Wear Moi has grown to be a company that creates jobs. Thirty years ago, I was making dresses all by myself in my living room. Since then, we have grown a lot. We have put together a great team that is very close despite working all over the world: from Japan to New Caledonia to the US, Tunisia and France.
Can you tell us about any future projects you are especially passionate about?
We are preparing a lovely surprise for our customers in 2022. It is a massive project that is both motivating and exciting and our entire staff is working on it as we speak. For the moment, I cannot say much, but I can assure you that our customers will soon be able to experience their relationship with the brand and Wear Moi products on a whole new level. But mum's the word. I won't say anything else about it today. Come back in a few months!