The Queen was crowned wearing Vivier gold kidskin shoes, the heels scattered with garnets. Catherine Deneuve wore Vivier buckle pumps in Belle de Jour, turning them overnight into the iconic must-have shoe that they remain to this
day. Vivier is the man who invented stilettos and the ground-breaking curved “comma” heel. He dressed the feet – shod seems too ugly a word – of everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Sophia Loren. Known as the Fabergé of Footwear, his shoes have been woven into the fabric of fashion history since he was discovered in 1937 by Elsa Schiaparelli. As Claire Wilcox, curator of the V&A’s current show The Golden Age of Couture, puts it, “Vivier’s shoes are like pieces of jewellery setting off the clothes they are paired with. He was traditional and at the same time incredibly modern.”
Vivier died, aged 90, in 1998. But his spirit lives on in a brand that is now stronger than ever, thanks to creative director Bruno Frisoni. In 2001, Frisoni was asked to inject modernity into the rich heritage of the brand. First came sightings of the Belle Vivier buckle pump in fashion magazines. Then, new stores created a frisson of excitement, in Paris in 2004 and London in 2006.
“Our ambition,” says Frisoni, “was to create a brand, not to set up another shoe shop.” An art critic recently argued that Vivier shoes are high art, on a par with a Picasso or a Canaletto.
One does not need to “argue” for this, as if it were the matter of opinion. One need only show the shoes of the Roger Vivier to prove that they are art of the highest sort.