Keeping a classic brand on the edge

Bruno Frisoni has been at the helm of Roger Vivier for 12 years.
Bruno Frisoni has been at the helm of Roger Vivier for 12 years.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
A Roger Vivier sneaker from the Spring Summer 2016 collection, which is a playful take on the brand’s classic buckled pump.
A Roger Vivier sneaker from the Spring Summer 2016 collection, which is a playful take on the brand’s classic buckled pump.PHOTO: ROGER VIVIER

Creative director Bruno Frisoni, of French luxury brand Roger Vivier, mixes old and new to stay relevant

Much like the classic, timeless shoes he designs, Bruno Frisoni, creative director of French accessories house Roger Vivier, is the epitome of style. No matter the heat and humidity, he is immaculately suited while speaking to The Straits Times during a market visit.

"The Roger Vivier customer... she is beautiful and powerful and comfortable with her sensuality," the Frenchman says.

"I design with that powerful, bold woman in mind, the Katharine Hepburns and Marilyn Monroes of the world who don't need to try to stand out in a crowd."

It would seem then that this is a man who walks the talk, given that standing out effortlessly is exactly what Roger Vivier's recent collections have been about.

With Frisoni at the helm for the past 12 years, the heritage brand has seen a revival in recent times - thanks to a move towards collections that speak to a younger audience.

The brand is well-known for its buckle pumps, featuring a chrome buckle on the toe box. It was introduced by the brand's namesake designer in 1965 and became famous when French actress Catherine Deneuve's sultry character slipped them on in 1967's Belle Du Jour. The late Vivier is credited with inventing the modern stiletto heel in 1954.

But Frisoni has made it his mission to expand the brand beyond its signature buckle pumps and heels.

"I believe that every designer needs to exist in a state of discomfort," the 56-year-old says when asked what sparked this new direction for the brand. "Yes, we want to attract a younger customer, but we also want to give our loyal customers something to be excited about. Feeling a struggle is what allows innovation. It is what brings in the splendid ideas."

For the Roger Vivier brand, this has meant kicks that mix elements of femininity, individuality and strength - think a sneaker with bold prints or frills for a cheeky take on its classic buckled pump.

It is no surprise then that the brand's shoes have become a redcarpet staple, worn by actresses such as Jessica Chastain, Elizabeth Banks and Scarlett Johansson.

The brand occupies a 968 sq ft boutique at Ngee Ann City. Shoes cost between $980 and $3,530, while bags cost between $2,300 and $5,120.

When asked what he is most proud of since taking over the reins, Frisoni is quick to point out the brand's continued relevance despite its small size.

"We have only 39 stores around the world so, as a maison, we are very small when compared with other luxury brands. But yet, we've managed to stay recognisable and not be just about a shoe that is of the moment," he says.

"For me as a designer, that has been key. Mixing the old-world charm that is so inherent to the heritage of our brand with creative new elements has been very exciting for me. It has kept the Roger Vivier brand on the edge."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2016, with the headline 'Keeping a classic brand on the edge'. Print Edition | Subscribe