On the morning of her June 1953 coronation, Queen Elizabeth II slipped her feet into garnet-studded shoes made by Roger Vivier. The next year, Vivier achieved real fame when he, for better or worse, offered up the first stiletto and gained fans like Catherine Deneuve, Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot. So when Vivier died in 1998 at age 90, his were—pardon the expression—big shoes to fill. “Vivier was the poet of shoes. Every shoe was a piece of art,” says designer Bruno Frisoni, who was offered the daunting job of carrying on the Vivier label after Vivier’s death—and mulled it over for a year before accepting in 2004. The decision, says the Burgundy-born Frisoni, 45, “was not to be taken lightly.”
Serious about the responsibility, Frisoni, a former accessories designer for Lanvin and Christian Lacroix, nevertheless quickly proved adept at channeling Vivier’s whimsical spirit. He has whipped up pheasant-feather heels worn by Nicole Kidman and a black-crocodile rose confection that is blooming on feet all over Hollywood this season (see box). With luxe touches like crystals, exotic skins and couture handiwork, “they’re such fashionista shoes, an insider’s secret,” says L.A. celeb stylist Rachel Zoe, who has placed Frisoni’s wares on her clients. The brand, she says, “is timeless and exclusive.”
That exclusivity is due, in part, to gasp-inducing price tags, which range from $475 (for a Frisoni twist on the chrome-buckle pumps Vivier created for Deneuve’s housewife-call girl in Belle de Jour) to several models costing as much as four and even five figures. “I make beautiful shoes,” Frisoni explains. “Why make something just normal or average when you can create beauty?”
His hand-beaded satin boots, for example, sell for $19,900. “If you have the money and want fine pleasure in a car, you go to Jaguar,” says Frisoni. “If you prefer, buy a plain car. It is simple.” Of course, at those prices, you may have to choose between the boots and the car.
At his Paris boutique, browsers include A-listers like Sharon Stone and Charlize Theron, who bought several pairs. (While there are plans for a Manhattan shop next year, currently Vivier shoes are sold in America only at Neiman Marcus in Los Angeles and Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman stores in New York City.) The starry clientele thrills the designer. Of seeing his work on the red carpet, he says, “Oh my God, are you kidding me? It’s a huge honor!” He has even won an original Vivier fan: Last spring Catherine Deneuve met him for lunch and shoe shopping. As Frisoni knelt at her feet in his store, he marveled, “Who would have thought one day I’d do this! Who am I? Some shoe designer.” Yes, but one who may be well on his way to poetry.
Danielle Dubin. Monique Jessen in Paris and Jessica Herndon in Los Angeles