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Ophélie Renouard: On Preserving French Tradition and Empowering Women with Le Bal des Débutantes

Ophélie Renouard
Le Bal des Débutantes is a night of glamour, beauty, and celebration that brings together young women from around the world who make their formal debut into high society. This prestigious event is held annually in Paris, and is attended by the daughters and sons of aristocrats, politicians, and business tycoons. From the elegant couture gowns paired with exquisite jewelry to the choreographed dances, Le Bal des Débutantes is a stunning display of opulence and tradition. But beyond the glitz and glamour, the event has a deeper meaning of charity and supports noble causes.

After a night of splendor at the Shangri-La Hotel Paris, we spoke with the iconic founder Ophélie Renouard to take a closer look at the history and significance of Le Bal, exploring the customs and rituals that make it one of the most highly anticipated events of the Parisian social calendar.

AM: Ophélie, could you give us a brief insight on your background and what led you to establish Le Bal?
My main profession was to organize luxury events that provide media attention and coverage. I worked with several hotels and palaces and I always wanted to create an international charity event. The first idea I had was a haute couture fashion show which then transitioned into Le Bal in 1994.

AM: Which criteria do you consider while recruiting the debutantes and cavaliers?
We like accomplished boys and girls who fit with the story and vision of our event. We sometimes have siblings too. We also had debutantes who became mothers and enrolled their daughters, and the same for cavaliers turned fathers. It has become like a family tradition for some and we are very proud to be part of their memories.

AM: And how do you match the couples?
I pay attention to their heights, the languages they speak and their ages. Then I go by personality and what they like. There should be a sort of chemistry. I am constantly asking people around me for new profiles who would seem outside the box of what a debutante or cavalier is considered to be.

Le Bal Des Debutantes

AM: The debutantes flaunt unique haute couture pieces; how do you create the link with the fashion Maisons?
We spend the year matching dresses with the girls. My team is very patient, we don’t go by designers, but rather by dresses and the personality of the girl. Our rule is only one designer per debutant. We have couturiers from all around the world, French of course, but also Lebanese, British, Chinese and more. Of course, our professional glam team by Nars Cosmetics and Alexander von Trentini’s salon do their jobs so beautifully.

AM: Can we talk about the masterpieces by V Muse Jewelry?
Definitely. The brand is established by two Chinese individuals who are jewelry collectors and decided to start a new high jewelry brand. They have a fantastic collection and they approached me during the pandemic requesting to be the official jewelers of Le Bal. They have a plan to make the brand known internationally and to open their first boutique in Paris.  

AM: The core of the event is charity, and this year you chose The Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital and the World Central Kitchen. Why did you select these organizations?
I always choose charities I have a link with because it's easier to know your way around. I had this friend who was running Enfants d'Asie, and I was raised in Asia so we helped girls get schooled. We did it for 15 years, then I had a very sad experience with hospitals and that is when I decided to take on hospitals. So, I chose The Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital, which improves the quality of care for children with heart defects all over the world, and an American charity, the World Central Kitchen, active in providing meals around the globe. 

AM: How does the call to action for donations happen?
The families and invitees receive the charity information with their official invitation, and they send their denotations directly to the organization of choice.  

Le Bal Des Debutantes

AM: How do you keep Le Bal historically relevant but also adaptable to the woman of today?
I stopped working with certain partners because they wanted to commercialize my event many years ago. From my point of view, these girls come for the old fashion experience. But to make it relevant, I choose modern girls. It's a-once-in-a-lifetime experience, but they key to its success is that we genuinely want them to have a good time. We don't do it for money.

AM: And how do you measure the success of your event?
It's in the quality of our debs. The key is the cast of Le Bal. The boys are also becoming more and more important.

AM: Have you considered taking Le Bal to another country?
I considered the USA and China. Some have reached out to me to franchise the brand but I am still considering it. I just don't know if it's a good idea to take it out of Paris.

AM: Tell us more about the film crew that was present during the 2022 edition
I met with a friend in New York who was a big fan of Le Bal and we brainstormed the idea of a documentary. It’s still in the post-production phase and will be shown on a major streaming platform.