THE LEGACY LIVES ON
Even before the advent of Jimmy Choos, Louboutins or Manolos, there was Roger Vivier. Heralded as the Fabergé of Footwear, it was the choice for royalty and stars. In the past decade, the dormant brand has been awakened and is even more desirable. By Rebe
Haute shoemaker brand Roger Vivier retains its place in fashion
The last year was an eventful one for Roger Vivier in Asia. The brand went through an aggressive expansion, it launched its second store in Hong Kong, and new ones in Tokyo and Singapore—a first for Southeast Asia. These add to a growing list of 26 Roger Vivier stores globally— all in just over a decade since the President and CEO of Tod’s, Diego Della Valle, bought the brand over in 2001 (three years after the passing of shoe legend Monsieur Vivier himself ).
If anything, this is evidence of the immense popularity the brand has internationally. But with a predisposition to snub paid publicity, how does Roger Vivier do it? “We are one of the few brands that take a lot of care with what we have in the shops. Unlike a lot of other brands, we don’t do a lot of publicity, runway shows and advertising. If people know about Roger Vivier, it’s because of the women. I like that the base of our business is what we are selling and the experience is the store itself,” says legendary French beauty and Roger Vivier ambassador Inés de la Fressange.
From the beginning, it has always been about beautiful shoe designs that women want to wear and Monsieur Vivier was a tour de force. The “stiletto king” was a pioneer of numerous other revolutionary shoe designs. The task of taking this famous name into a luxury brand that’s still relevant in the 21st century has fallen on the shoulders of current Parisian Creative Director Bruno Frisoni. What’s immediately obvious: Roger Vivier now offers more than just shoes. “Today, we also design day and evening bags. We have glasses, perfume and jewellery. All these present a different feel to Roger Vivier as a brand,” says Frisoni.
A SPIN ON CLASSICS
Frisoni has adopted and re-invented signature Vivier symbols like the chrome buckle. It was first seen on pumps worn by risqué catwalk models for Yves Saint Laurent’s 1965 Mondrian collection. More memorably, Catherine Deneuve’s bourgeois bad girl in Belle du Jour slipped on a pair for her slide into adultery. The rectangular buckle became a favourite among modern-minded women then.
Today, the refined buckle lends itself to many interpretations. Frisoni has kept the classic chromed version, but also dressed it up in sequins, wrapped it with leather or encrusted it with jewels. Apart from an embellishment on shoes, it has also transformed into the catch of a bag or been redesigned as jewellery. The latest spring/summer 2014 U-Look collection introduces a new buckle made of two U-shaped structures, joined together like magnets. Some are in duo-tone. The chic Miss Viv top-handle bag, originally dedicated to Madame Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, also sports the historic buckle. Quieter than a brand monogram, those who are in the know understand the understated style the Roger Vivier buckle represents.
“I couldn’t be the ambassador of products I don’t like. Roger Vivier is exactly the kind of fashion I like. It’s very elegant, but never boring. There’s always a twist or something fun. Like flat shoe in satin but with a buckle embellished with strass beads—seems casual but very sophisticated,” says Fressange. This, Fressange claims, is the reason why women come back again and again to buy the same shoes in other colours.
Frisoni has also updated the Virgule or Comma heel in modern steel. First created in 1963, it is a heel that rolls under the foot with a dynamic curve. For spring/summer 2014, sensual yet elegant open-toe sandals feature the Virgule heels. To up the cool factor, the sandals come in fun materials like reflective silver leather and bright summery shades like green and blue.
“It’s not for me to say if I bring anything revolutionary to the brand. It’s not that you can understand if something is timeless or relevant for fashion [during the process]. You will only know if something is a great style after 10, 20 or 30 years. What I bring to the brand is probably a coolness,” he says. If there’s one thing new Frisoni has brought to Roger Vivier, it’s got to be the futuristic Prismick line, which was launched in summer 2012. Angular pieces of leathers, fabrics and colours created an arty 3D effect on bags and shoes. “It’s a reflection of what people look for today, which is architectural and geometric pieces,” says Frisoni.
HOT, NOT HAUTE
Before launching his first ready-to-wear shoes line in the ’60s, Monsieur Vivier was, first, a custom shoes designer. During the ’30s, he dressed Parisian singer Minstinguett’s feet in sequins and decorated Josephine Baker’s with little pendants. Two decades later, he convinced Marlene Dietrich to walk on diamond-encrusted balls and, in 1953, sent the young Queen Elizabeth to the English throne in a pair of “golden kid sandals embroidered with assorted garnets to match her crown” and designed it with a “double sole to afford the future monarch a height worthy of her title.” He also designed for Christian Dior.
In another clever move, Frisoni has replaced the brand’s haute couture heritage but revisited it with highend but low production models. The limited-edition Rendezvous line caters to contemporary women looking for unique shoes for special occasions. The shoes in this line are embellished with fancy feathers, crystal flowers and more. “I was keen not to continue with couture because although Roger Vivier is a couturier, there are no real couture ateliers today that will give us the excuse to do couture. So I chose to go for a more modern way to access luxury,” explains Frisoni.
From square-toed shoes to the stiletto, the artistic capital of Monsieur Vivier is vast and there’s much for Frisoni to play around with in years to come. What is certain now is that over a decade since its re-launch, Roger Vivier has seen a successful revival. So much so that people are now keen to know more about the history behind the beautiful shoes they wear. Last year this culminated in the launch of a coffee table book Roger Vivier and a retrospective exhibition “Virgule, etc: In the Footsteps of Roger Vivier” that was one of the highlights at Paris Fashion Week in October.
With two big events to add to Roger Vivier’s milestones, what’s next? Riding on momentum, the answer is obvious. “Expansion. More stores worldwide! And hopefully, a new place for us in Paris. When we launched the brand with Diego Della Valle, we imagined launching a maison. Not a collection.” says Frisoni.
Leather and satin heels; leather pumps, Roger Vivier
From top: Bruno Frisoni and Inés de la Fressange. Leather tote; snakeskin bag; leather shoulder bag, Roger Vivier