Sunday, July 7, 2013

Roger Vivier: the shoes and the women who love them.

Books are my weakness, especially beautifully photographed art and fashion books. Luckily I share this addiction with fashion friend Karen, so we loan our expensive books to each other. Admittedly, it's a bit one-sided as Karen has a bigger book collection and loans more to me. She's so generous in fact, that I recently gave her this beautiful book, Roger Vivier, for her birthday and after peeling away the clear plastic that sealed it (proof that I hadn't read it first!) and oohing and ahhing at the photos, she immediately handed it back to me as a loan. I sheepishly accepted, but I want to get this posted asap before guilt sets in.

Vivier collaborated with Christian Dior from 1953 to 1962.

The book is not only stunning to look at, but it is a pleasure to read with heady essays by French writers like Virginie Mouzat and Olivier Saillard and interviews with Vivier fans Cate Blanchett, Catherine Deneuve and brand ambassador Inès de la Fressange.

Catherine Deneuve and Inès de la Fressange in 2012.
Both wearing Vivier's buckle shoe,  designed forty-five years ago.

Roger Vivier's career spanned sixty years. And the shoes tell a consistent and cohesive tale of excellent design. I'm not suprised to learn that Vivier studied sculpture at Paris's Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1924. Shoes at their best are small sculptures. From the beginning, he designed shoes for the royal and the famous. Coronation shoes for the Queen Mother and Queen and stars such as Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Marlene Dietrich. 

"Comma" heel. Spring/Summer 2005 collection. Designed by Bruno Frisoni.
Frisoni has been Vivier creative director since 2002.  

Credited with designing the first stiletto heel by using a stainless steel shank, he named his heels like a sculptor names his work: Fuyant (fleeting) 1954, Toupie (spinning top) 1955, Egtrave (bow stem) 1958, Choc 1959, Virgule (comma) 1963.

"Choc" heels, 1959. 

Catherine Deneuve famously wore his black patent leather shoes with large gold buckles in Luis Bunuel's film Belle du Jour, forever associating them with sexy allure. Vivier originally designed them for Yves Saint Laurent's Fall/Winter Mondrian collection 1965-1966. The style still thrives today.

Ecume des Modes shoe, designed by Bruno Frisoni,
Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2009-2010.

French journalist Virginie Mouzat contributes to the book with her essay A Martyr by Consent : "At this phase in the construction of feminine representations, high heels — in France, we call them talons — read almost like undergarments that we wear in plain sight and knowledge of everyone around us. In some ways, wearing them is almost like wearing lingerie for the feet. For those with a weakness for shoes, the same shiver runs down their spine whether they happen upon a closet full of high heels or a drawer filled with women's lingerie. Something on the order of the profane occurs. Fetishism? The word burns the lips. Of course, that does have something to do with it. And the displacement of the libido onto this accessory not only burn the lips, it also burns the credit cards. Wearing talons is like consensual martyrdom, and this consent confers upon the act the pleasure of its ambivalence, whether we want it to or not." J'adore such highbrow philosophizing about heels!

Cate Blanchett wearing Prismick flats, Spring/Summer 2012.

In the book, there is an interview with Cate Blanchett and Bruno Frisoni. When asked if she can tolerate wearing uncomfortable shoes, Blanchett says, "If I'm only walking down the red carpet or if I'm doing a photo shoot, absolutely. But not in everyday life...That's what I love about my Vivier shoes. They are sculptural but they are really wearable. Shoes are, to a certain degree, fetish objects. I think in some designer's hands, they can work with the cruel side of the fetish rather than the exotic, exquisite side of the fetish—the exquisite is what Bruno does at Vivier.

Blanchett sums it up: "There's a kind of glorious eccentricity to them yet they are still so effortlessly chic."

The archive room, maison Roger Vivier, 29 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré. Looks like it could use some straightening and wouldn't I love the job of doing that!


  1. Wonderful and inspiring post Lesa!

  2. Oh, this is so fun. Thanks for sharing, Lesa!

  3. I would give a bag of gold (if I had such a thing) to have some of my heels from the 50s and 60s, especially a pair of spectator pumps, the essential spring wardrobe accessory that no well dressed woman of that era could do without. In navy and white, of course. Why I still have the lovely little leather navy clutch bag, I do not know. But I am ever thankful I saved it, especially in spring! Thanks for a drool-worthy post, Lesa!