Features

Sole Man: Roger Vivier’s Bruno Frisoni

Bruno Frisoni (above) with highlights from Roger Vivier’s SS12 collection

Any shoe lover will know that Roger Vivier’s iconic buckled flats have the same lust factor for women as Hermes’ Birkin bags. Although the brand was officially launched in 2003, it was founded decades before by cobbler Roger Vivier, a legend who has inspired modern shoe maestros including Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Rupert Sanderson and of course Bruno Frisoni. It was the quirky Bruno, however, who was handpicked by Tod’s honcho Diego Della Valle to take Vivier’s legacy and transform it into a modern and covetable accessories brand over eight years ago.

I actually met Bruno in 2004 when he launched his eponymous label in Hong Kong, and have since been a fan of his sexy styles and charming personality.  During his tenure at Vivier, he has managed to merge his mad, creative genius with the rich, legacy of the house to create timeless styles that still have a fashion edge.

Bruno was recently in Hong Kong to open the brand’s second store in the region and I was lucky enough to sit down and chat with him about shoes, sex and how Vivier is taking over China. Read on to find out more.

BRUNO Frisoni may have started out as an accessories designer but since taking on the role of creative director at French brand Roger Vivier he has added dream maker to the list.

“It’s about creating rare and unique designs that make you dream. My job is to deliver dreams – so even if you come to Vivier looking for a ballerina with the buckle, it’s going to be your dream pair. People come here for exclusivity, to feel good,” he says.

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 all sorts of 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. It’s something that you love. Its 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,” Frisoni continues.

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 young designer in Paris with a passion for sketching and shoes.

“I studied ready-to-wear but to me shoes were the element. It’s really a key piece of the silhouette. Bags are always surrounding the silhouette, while 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 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 decided to take on 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. 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. Besides, I was always inspired by Vivier – he’s like Yves Saint Laurent or Chanel. When you study fashion you know these greats,” he says. 

For the past eight years Della Valle and Frisoni have 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 ubiquitous in China and Hong Kong as Louis Vuitton’s monogram and as such 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. 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 because 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, then something new, then we have done out 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,” he says.

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. 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,” he says.

Also high on his list is the development of the Limited Edition line which was offers customers more exclusive made-to-order pieces in limited quantities.  These styles are shown at private trunk show 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. 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,” he says.

And while the brand has plans to expand into even more product categories, Frisoni is still 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. What is important for me is if the shoe can have sex. If you try the shoe and it doesn’t look or feel sexy then forget it. It has to have this connection,” he says.

As published in SCMP January 6th 2012

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