TI06 - October 19

The pas de deux of Luís and Adão

A specialist in the design and manufacture of ballet suits and with a solid presence both in Europe and in the United States, Ballet Rosa has now its eyes set on the gigantic Chinese market. Not even the troubled troika years disturbed the company's rapid growth. The brand based in Ronfe, Guimarães, already has 70 people involved in the business and exports 95% of its production to 23 different geographies


When back in the year of ’98 he decided to learn how to dance, Luís Guimarães had no idea of how that small decision would forever change the course of his life. He was 30 years old and the love for salsa, merengue and cha-cha-cha came at first sight. “Dance is a discipline that exercises body and mind, besides stimulating movement coordination”, explains the entrepreneur, who at the moment of the coup de foudre owned a textile agency (Vence), which worked with several foreign brands, purchasing raw material and controlling the production.

Luís – who entered the textile world at age 18, working for a weaving and finishing company owned by the Magalhães group – didn’t take long to sense the business potential of dance, and he set off to sniff out opportunities and ways to combine his new passion with his profession.

By the turn of the millennium, an Internet search connected him with a Frenchman based in London who had a brand of ballet leotards – Wear Moi – that needed help upstream. They combined the hunger (of the Frenchman) with the desire to eat (of Luís) and established, right there and then, a partnership to relaunch the brand.

For about eight years, they got along like God and the angels. Luís oversaw the creation and manufacturing of the collection. The Frenchman was in charge of sales. Sadly, this marriage did not withstand the storm that took over following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

“The Frenchman grabbed the moulds and took the production to Tunisia”, relays Luís, who then went, for a couple of years, on a long journey through the desert, working as a consultant for AEP and investing in his training.

After having mourned this ugly divorce, he decided to go back, earlier this decade, to ballet leotards, this time with his own brand (Ballet Rosa) and production – and a far more reliable partner, Adão Coelho, with whom he had worked at Wear Moi (the production of the leotards was made at Adão’s uncle company, which closed in the meantime).

“We bought the machines from Adão’s uncle and began operations with eight people”, recalls Luís. The first steps were the hardest. The sky was teeming with clouds. 2011 was the year the infamous Troika landed, but Ballet Rosa was lying in the sun soon enough. In 2012, two events, one in Florence and another one in Paris, comforted the two partners.

In Florence, Ballet Rosa’s presence at Danza in Fiera went very well. And in the French capital, Luís was introduced to Isabelle Ciavarola, star of the Paris Ballet Opera, an encounter that marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

“Isabelle had the dream of creating a collection that was more Parisian, very bold, with a type of product inexistent on the market at the time, and we helped her fulfil that dream, with invaluable gains in terms of image for us”, describes the founder of the Portuguese brand of ballet leotards and accessories – who after having established a solid basis in the US and Europe, is gearing up to broaden its presence in the gigantic Chinese market.

The Company

Ballet Rosa
Rua da Peça 1
4809-017 Guimarães

What do they make? Design and manufacturing of ballet leotards Export 95% of the production to 23 countries Main market United States of America (they own a commercial base in Chicago) Strategic investment China and other eastern markets (Japan, South Korea, etc.) Project To create a dance school in Guimarães Employees 70 collaborators