Sole Man

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2012, 12:00am


'It's about creating rare and unique designs that make you dream,' says Bruno Frisoni, creative director at Roger Vivier. 'My job is to deliver dreams - so even if you come to Vivier looking for a ballerina shoe with a buckle, it's going to be your dream pair. People come here for exclusivity, to feel good.'

We are at the brand's new boutique in Harbour City and Frisoni is playing the role of prince, surrounded by a sea of shoes that are worthy of any modern-day Cinderella. The shelves are lined with fantastical creations, from pointy-toe pumps covered in hundreds of crystals to skyscraper heels decorated with a single rose made from gold brocade. On the floor, candy-coloured ballet flats with the brand's signature buckle are lined up in a row, waiting to be devoured by hungry buyers.

'Our style is playful and chic at the same time,' he says. 'It's something that you love. It's timeless - there's a fashion date on it, but it's never extreme so you can only wear it once and throw it away. It's beautiful in the way it's made and looks.'

Roger Vivier made a name for himself as the couturier of shoes, designing for the late Christian Dior and for luminaries such as Queen Elizabeth during the 1950s and 1960s. The young and quirky Frisoni has been at the helm of the brand since it was re-launched by Tod's honcho Diego Della Valle in 2003. At the time, Frisoni was a struggling designer in Paris with a passion for sketching and shoes.

'I studied ready-to-wear, but to me shoes were the element,' says Frisoni. 'It's a key piece of the silhouette. Bags are always surrounding the silhouette, but shoes make the silhouette.'

Having honed his skills with industry stalwarts such as Christian Lacroix and Alber Elbaz, Frisoni was toiling at his eponymous label when Della Valle approached him to take the job at Roger Vivier. At the time, the brand was unheard of outside of France, although the legacy of its founder had always resonated with Frisoni. 'Why I took the job when I was already doing my line, I don't know. But it was an opportunity, and the only one of its kind,' says Frisoni. 'It was the first time anybody proposed to revive an old brand, so I couldn't refuse. I didn't know where it was going to take me, but I wanted to take the risk. I was always inspired by Vivier - he's like Yves Saint Laurent or Chanel. When you study fashion, you know these greats.'

For the past eight years, Della Valle and Frisoni built an empire that includes shoes, bags, jewellery, sunglasses and perfume. The brand has grown so much that Frisoni shuttered his own line last year so he could devote more time to the label.

While operations are based in Paris, Asia plays a huge role in the business, where there are three boutiques in the region. Indeed, Vivier's signature square buckle has become as recognisable in China and Hong Kong as Louis Vuitton's ubiquitous monogram, and has spawned millions of copies. Frisoni says the popularity of the design works for and against the brand, especially at a time when luxury is becoming more understated.

'It is a lot about the buckle, because we needed a recognisable symbol,' he says. 'When you launch a brand, you need to make a statement and we didn't want to have a logo. We are not ashamed of it; it's our symbol. Some people colour the sole, or have chain straps - for us, the buckle is the base.

'I think people are more worried about the buckle than I am. It exists, so it's my job to make it new. If people come to Vivier to buy this first and then something new, then we have done our job. So I work with it, but I still have freedom to do other things. It doesn't pigeonhole us. That being said we are slowly making it less visible.'

It's for this reason that Frisoni has been working on a new signature for the brand called the Prismick line, which will be launched in time for Spring-Summer 2012. It's based on an old design and is inspired by geometric paper cut outs.

'We had a couture piece made of silver that looked like a faceted sculpture. It was very clean and geometric and it's three-dimensional element inspired me,' says Frisoni. 'We decided to do this on modern and simple shapes like paper bags, pumps and T-bar sandals. It's a new take on construction.'

Also high on his list is the development of their exclusive Limited Edition line, which offers customers more exclusive made-to-order pieces in limited quantities. These styles are shown at private trunk shows twice a year at Vivier boutiques, and customers have to wait three to four weeks for their shoes to be delivered.

'It's about a more conceptual look and is the most fun for me,' says Frisoni. 'It's really limited with 10 to 20 pieces. Customers approach it like shopping at an art gallery, because they are works of art. It's quicker than couture.'

And while the brand plans to expand its product range, Frisoni is adamant that his first love is and always will be shoes.

'When you stand on your shoes, you balance really well. You never stand on your bags,' he says. 'What's important to me is can the shoe be sexy? If you try the shoe on and it doesn't look or feel sexy, then forget it. It has to have this connection.'


Roger Vivier's Spring-Summer 2012 line has been dubbed Urban Jungle, with Frisoni inspired by Africa and African masks for his latest collection. Weathered tan sandals come with kitten heels, while eclectic clutches are decorated with beads, monkey prints and leopard print mixed with polka dots. Colour blocking is also a big theme, and primary colours cover the brand's best-selling ballerinas and new Archi sandal (page 37) with a block heel. The Bronze series features bags and shoes made from specially treated bronze and silver leather, so that they resemble brushed metal sculptures.