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Keeping playful sophistication at Roger Vivier
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BEIRUT: These days, it’s about more than shoes at Roger Vivier, which held its grand opening in Downtown Beirut Thursday night.

The French shoe designer was credited with some of the biggest feats in ladies footwear. He built one of the quintessential symbols of femininity, the stiletto, and appropriated the Pilgrim’s buckle as an emblem of haute accessoires. A recent exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris – part history, part art, part fashion – displayed 140 Vivier creations belonging to 20th century style giants such as Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau.

Today, iconic bits and pieces from Vivier’s artistic legacy are being reborn in the brand’s growing accessory lines. Buckle-inspired wristbands, bejeweled clutches, prismatic bags and sunglasses: The Roger Vivier of the 21st century has the same taste but a bigger selection.

That’s the mission and hope, at least, of Bruno Frisoni, who took the creative helm of Maison Roger Vivier in 2002. He spoke with The Daily Star on the eve of the grand opening in Downtown.

“What’s important is to get the spirit of Roger Vivier and to put with it my own spirit,” Frisoni said during a phone call from France. “It’s always to be true to where the success began, but to make it appropriate to today’s customers.”

Often times, it’s a matter of editing, he said. The winter collection on display includes contemporary ballerinas featuring patterns and embellishment reminiscent of Vivier’s original work.

Vivier began making shoes in the 1930s. His clientele counted the likes of Josephine Baker and Queen Elizabeth II among its ranks.

He remained at the foreground of shoe fashion throughout his career, designing for Christian Dior until 1964 and producing some of the most copied designs – like the buckle, cork platforms and thigh-high boots.

Some designs require no editing at all. For example, the Virgule pump, a stiletto with a comma-shaped heel, has retained it freshness for half a century, Frisoni said.

“It looked very simple. There’s almost no design,” he said. “The Virgule is one of his most playful designs in terms of the perfection of the heel. It’s not a stiletto. It’s still a fresh look.”

Playfulness has a central place in Vivier’s legacy. “To me, he is one of the most important people in the world when we talk about fashion,” Frisoni said. He knew Vivier before his death in 1998 and said he considered him a friend. “He never took anything too seriously, but the work was major. He really made it happen.”

To build accessory lines from scratch, Frisoni inherited decades of potential inspiration. This winter’s accessories included houndstooth, a mainstay in Vivier’s life work, gold patterns drawn from one of Vivier’s influences, Gustav Klimt, and a prismatic structure built into multi-faceted bags and chunky jewelry.

Frisoni is not without his own influences. The creative has a vacation home in Tangier, Morocco, and classic motifs from this part of the world are a great source of inspiration, he said. “It’s a very rich culture. It’s so sophisticated. It’s a great inspiration and escape.”

Ultimately, Frisoni said, good design, as channeled through the muse Vivier, is all about spontaneity, “and to never forget to be sexy.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 13, 2013, on page 2.
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