Take the chal­lenge of Roger Vivier’s tow­er­ing stilet­tos

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Bazaar - By Sasha Slater.

If Cin­derella had re­ally ex­isted, the Fairy God­mother would un­doubt­edly have con­jured up a Roger Vivier slip­per for her to lose. For no other la­bel’s shoes have ever been so rich in lux­ury, his­tory and fan­tasy. “Lines have al­ways en­thralled me,” said the fa­mous shoe­maker. And, in 1954, he cre­ated the first stiletto. For bet­ter and for worse, he re­aligned our hips, elon­gated our calves, ac­cen­tu­ated our curves, raised us up – and cast us down, caus­ing un­told twisted an­kles, blis­ters, and taxi fares.

Women were wooed by the wit and beauty of Vivier’s lines. The Vir­gule, a sleek, quick comma of a heel, is mag­i­cal in the im­pos­si­ble engineering of its curve. The thigh-high scar­let fun-fur boot is a cre­ation that only a marmalade cat could re­ally carry off. The Pied de Chèvre, or goat-hoofed heel, may sound ec­cen­tric, but once it has been em­broi­dered with sil­ver thread and decked with topazes, it is sud­denly fit for Princess So­raya of Iran – who had Vivier heels made to match her ev­ery gown.

In 1936, El­iz­a­beth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Con­sort, wore gold-em­broi­dered, white satin Viviers for the coronation of her hus­band, Ge­orge VI. Not sur­pris­ingly, 17 years later, her daugh­ter Queen El­iz­a­beth II also chose Vivier to de­sign the gold kid-skin and seed-pearl san­dals she wore for her own Coronation. Chris­tian Dior al­lowed Vivier’s name to ap­pear on shoes de­signed for his la­bel – a unique priv­i­lege at the time. And Elsa Schi­a­par­elli, Yves Saint Lau­rent, Marc Bo­han, Pierre Bal­main, and Madame Grès all clam­oured to pair his shoes with their cat­walk cre­ations.

In Belle de Jour, Luis Buñuel’s 1967 ex­plo­ration of the dark sex­u­al­ity of the bour­geoisie, Cather­ine Deneuve wore Vivier pil­grim-buck­led black patent shoes. The ef­fect was equiv­o­cal, prim yet provoca­tive. “A sim­ple, well­made shoe with the per­fect arch is such a plea­sure,” Deneuve said of those solid-heeled clas­sics, adding: “My only sin has al­ways been shoes.” Grace Kelly, El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, Sophia Loren, Mar­lene Di­et­rich, Jackie O, and Au­drey Hep­burn all posed in Viviers. Brigitte Bar­dot raised tem­per­a­tures when she mod­elled thigh-high Vivier boots astride a Har­ley-David­son.

This glo­ri­ous past is be­ing cel­e­brated at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris with an ex­hi­bi­tion de­voted to 140 of the la­bel’s most spec­tac­u­lar shoes. Vivier him­self, a Parisian who spent some time in New York dur­ing the war, died in 1998. But in 2000 his brand was spec­tac­u­larly re­vived by Diego Della Valle, the CEO of Tod’s Group. In 2003, Della Valle coaxed the Paris­born de­signer Bruno Frisoni to

be­come cre­ative di­rec­tor of the

la­bel. Since then, Frisoni has taken Vivier’s po­tent alchemy of star­dom, fan­tasy, and wit to new heights. “Mr. Vivier had a play­ful side, of course. And I have al­ways been very play­ful with what I’ve done. That was one of the el­e­ments that de­cided me as the right per­son for the brand,” says Frisoni over cof­fee at Clar­idge’s. “My work is about a chic at­ti­tude, a sex­i­ness, a play­ful­ness.”

And so Frisoni dreams up new forms and shapes in keep­ing with the her­itage of the mai­son yet unique to him. “Archives are good if you make them rel­e­vant to to­day, tomorrow,” he says. “You don’t go for pre­cise re­vivals – you take el­e­ments, or sil­hou­ettes, and recre­ate them so they are per­fect for now. I try to un­der­stand the phi­los­o­phy be­hind Vivier’s pas­sion, and write a new page in the la­bel’s his­tory.” That page in­cludes not just ex­quis­ite shoes, but jew­ellery and bags. And the stars who wear and carry them, from Rachel Weisz to Cate Blanchett, Mar­ion Cotil­lard to Anne Hath­away, Ni­cole Kid­man to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, are ev­ery bit as high-wattage as any of the fa­mous women Vivier him­self at­tracted in his hey­day. The model and for­mer Chanel muse Inès de la Fres­sange, with her aristro­cratic, witty, and el­e­gant French­ness, is a spokesper­son for the fa­mous brand.

The la­bel is just as in­ven­tive to­day. Frisoni’s Li­corne Sans Lec­ture court shoe from 2010 twists goose feath­ers into a proud uni­corn’s horn. Tricky to wear, per­haps, but also im­pos­si­ble to for­get. His Belle en Vivier boot from 2004 is a clas­sic shape ren­dered in shock­ing-pink foal-skin leop­ard-print. A favourite of mine is the Rose n’ Roll, with its nee­dle-thin high heel de­signed to look like a rose twig, com­plete with sculp­tured thorn. This was in­spired, Frisoni tells me, by a Vivier rocket heel and the work of the jew­eller and fur­ni­ture-maker Hervé Van der Straeten. “I was look­ing for a new stiletto,” he says. “And I was look­ing for a very or­ganic shape. You look for lines and I knew what I wanted in my head, but spent two days sketch­ing and throw­ing pa­per away and not suc­ceed­ing. Then I woke up, and went to my desk and ... ” he mimes a light­ning-quick sketch, “it’s done.” This sea­son, in­stead of find­ing in­spi­ra­tion in na­ture, the Pris­mick range is all about ar­chi­tec­ture and an­gles, jig­saw puzzles and ge­om­e­try. From a dis­tance a Pris­mick heel can look like the sweet­est curve, while close up it re­solves it­self into a suc­ces­sion of the most pre­cise an­gles.

And though Vivier may have in­vented the stiletto, it’s Frisoni who has re­ally taken it to ver­tig­i­nous new heights, up to 110mm from Vivier’s now mod­est-seem­ing 75mm. But, as Frisoni him­self says: “It’s not about the height; it’s never just about the height. Never.” Roger Vivier, #0212F, Takashimaya Shop­ping Cen­tre, Sin­ga­pore. Tel: +65 6737 8444. www.roger­vivier.com

The scene at the launch party for the Roger Vivier book (pub­lished by Riz­zoli UK) at Saatchi Gallery in 2013

Pris­mick shop­ping tote, Roger Vivier U- Look shoul­der bag, Roger Vivier

Roger Vivier cre­ative di­rec­tor, Bruno Frisoni

Pumps, Roger Vivier Vir­gule heels, Roger Vivier

The new store in Takashimaya Shop­ping Cen­tre, Sin­ga­pore

Brand am­bas­sador, Inès de la Fres­sange

Evening boot de­signed by Roger Vivier for Dior circa 1961

Bal­let flats, Roger Vivier

Roger Vivier circa 1961

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