Roger Vivier: In the footsteps of greatness

Roger Vivier shod everyone from the Queen to Catherine Deneuve. Now his signature comma-shaped heel is being given a new lease of life
  • @R_Gonsalves

As well as creating Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation footwear, Roger Vivier’s designs for Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent are legendary. One of the most acclaimed shoe designers ever to brandish a last, Vivier may have been credited with inventing the stiletto heel in 1954, but it is for his comma-shaped Virgule heel that he is perhaps best known.

A feat of engineering, Vivier consulted  aeronautical engineers before its introduction in 1963. This season, 50 years since its birth, the Virgule is getting more than just grammar pedants excited.

“We know who the Vivier woman is today, she is a younger mother,” says Bruno Frisoni, who was appointed creative director in 2003, and tasked with breathing new life into the brand, after the founder’s death in 1998.

“But now we want to know the daughter, so today is all about that daughter who has grown up and is becoming a woman. She is many women together – she is very Parisian, playful, sexy and always very chic.”

Fittingly for such a narrative, the star of the campaign is 21-year-old Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor, daughter of Amanda de Cadenet and John Taylor, of Duran Duran. Shot in the French capital by Olivia Bee, the series of images capture to a  T the youthful joie de vivre to which Frisoni is referring.  The brand plays an unmistakably important part in the history of French fashion in the 20th century, and as such has recently opened a retrospective at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, curated by the fashion historian Olivier Saillard.

“It is an honour and a great pleasure to follow in Vivier’s footsteps,” says Frisoni. “The archives are wonderful examples and certainly an inspiration for fashion today, however, I also try to take a distance from them.

“The exhibition features 170 single shoes from the Thirties until today, which will allow you to discover the kind of visionary Vivier was: his avant-garde creativity, his incredible modernity. He was an artist and a poet as well as a fashion designer – he has marked an era.”

This week, a Roger Vivier boutique will open as part of the shoe hall at Selfridges – the largest shoe department in the world – enabling a whole new customer to become acquainted with the quintessentially Parisian brand.

Alongside the Virgule, including a limited-edition, unique-to-Selfridges tartan version (above), are other highlights from the Vivier archive – including the pilgrim-style shoe worn by Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour.

“I try to work having fun,” says Frisoni of the brand’s exciting direction. “We are always at our best when we work having fun.”