Virgule, etc. In the footsteps of Roger Vivier

French Accessory Maison Roger Vivier will present a retrospective exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, to celebrate its eponymous founder, inventor and benchmark reference in the history of fashion. With the Fashion Program, Palais de Tokyo explores innovative experiments in the field of fashion, creation or beauty, that marks the reinvention of the codes of presenting dressmaking, and changing our relationship to the body.

The exhibition, curated by Olivier Saillard with Jean-Julien Simonot overseeing the scenography, is designed as a pastiche of a museum dedicated to shoes. It reaffirms the archetypal elements of the Louvre or the Prado, drawing on Roger Vivier’s inspirations. A taste of Africa, for the Orient , the 18th century, French and English artists – these are all themes that the shoemaker shared with the most venerable art institutions. Visitors will be taken on a journey through a landscape of showcases, reminiscent of the 19th century and with the dated charm of conserved, historical objects. The shoes borrow titles and roles from particular works of art, used through the exhibition uses to gently mock the worlds of art and fashion. More an inventor than a shoemaker, Roger Vivier began his career in the 1930s and the 140 models exhibited in the “Saut du Loup” at the Palais de Tokyo retrace this path.

Roger Vivier saw the shoe as a piece of sculpture whose shape he ceaselessly questioned. “Lines have always enthralled me,” confided the shoemaker, “I’ll resketch my drawing five hundred times to check the exactness of the idea and respect the foot’s architecture.” Heels were his key component, from the stiletto, which he was the first to launch in 1954, to the “Etrave” (1958) and the “Choc” (1959) to the sinuous “Virgule”, or comma heel, which he designed as his own brand manifesto in 1963. The shape of the shoe was equally so captivating to him that in 1958 the upper was enhanced with the “Turk” or “Guitar” toe.

A renovator of structure and surface, Roger Vivier has never shied away from embroidery, raising the shoe to a status of objet d’art with thanks due to the century-old expertise of Rébé and Lesage. The eminence of Roger Vivier was such that, in the 1950’, he was the only one of Christian Dior’s collaborators to have his name included alongside that of the couture designer. At that time, most Paris fashion shows from Schiaparelli to Yves Saint Laurent, resonated with the spirit of creativity that pushed Vivier to launch his own eponymous label in 1963.

History will also tell of Roger Vivier’s exceptional collection of female admirers. He designed the royal shoes for the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and his creations were worn by the greatest figures of the day. This monarchic aura enticed others including the Duchess of Windsor and the Princess Soraya of Iran, who we like to imagine rubbing shoulders with Marlène Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot... They couldn’t get enough of his shoes. Fun and surprising, these ladies donned high heels and also, like Catherine Deneuve in Buñuel’s “Belle de Jour” in 1967, flats with the celebrated silver buckle on the uppers. Since 2002, Maison Roger Vivier has been enriching its portfolio through the regular acquisition of exceptional pieces of its history, preciously guarded in France at the Musée de la Chaussure in Romans and including the 140 models to be exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo. In addition to the shoes and accessories from the Maison’s own archives, precious pieces from the world’s most important private and public art institutions have been loaned for this exhibition: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, the Musée de la Chaussure in Romans and Galliera, the City of Paris Fashion Museum.

A ces souliers et accessoires issus des archives de la maison s’ajoutent des prêts issus des plus importantes institutions mondiales, privées comme publiques : le Metropolitan Museum of Arts à New York, le BATA Shoes Museum de Toronto mais aussi le musée de la chaussure de Romans ou encore le Palais Galliera, musée de la mode de la Ville de Paris.

These fragments of fashion history have once again proven their contemporary importance under the impetus of Bruno Frisoni who, since 2002, has been the Creative Director for Maison Roger Vivier, perpetuating its unique international standing and reputation. With respect, creativity and modernity, he has transformed the Brand into one of Luxury Fashion Accessories, a symbol of Parisian chic elegantly epitomised by its ambassador, Ines de la Fressange. Always on the feet of the most elegant women like Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts, Bruno Frisoni mischievously draws new lines and shapes for the house collections, playing with, amongst others, the honourable “Virgule” heel that he uses as a punctuating emphasis in his creative design.

Curator: Olivier Saillard