One of the most revered shoe designers of the 20th century, Roger Vivier is celebrated for supreme elegance, innovative toe and heel shapes, architectural ingenuity and his conception of footwear as integral to fashion.
Born in 1907, the French designer trained in sculpture at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and began to design shoes in the late 1920s, later opening his first shoe atelier on the Rue Royale. He designed for many of the top manufacturers of Europe and the United States, including Pinet, Bally, Rayne, Salamander, and Delman before rising to the height of fame for his designs for Christian Dior from 1953 to 1963. He continued to design into the 1990s both under his own label and for numerous couture designers, including Saint Laurent, Grès, Ungaro, and Balmain.
His creations are in museums around the world including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Bata Shoe Museum in Canada and the Met Museum in New York, which has an extensive collection. His shoes are also sold at auction for hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.
Vivier also had famous clientele, designing custom shoes for Josephine Baker, the Duchess of Windsor, Princess Soraya of Iran, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, The Beatles and Queen Elizabeth II, for whom he made the famous ruby-encrusted heels she wore for her coronation in 1953. To celebrate the anniversary, the shoes have gotten a modern reimagining by Gherardo Felloni, creative director for the Roger Vivier brand. The "Vivier Queen Sandal" was unveiled at the designer’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection last September and retails for $1,995.
Throughout his career, Vivier proved to be adaptable to cultural trends and he remained devoted to exploring the artistic potential of shoe design. Among his many successes include the iconic pilgrim buckle shoe popularized by Catherine Deneuve in the 1967 film, “Belle de Jour,” which sold in the thousands after the movie came out, the thigh-high boot popularized by Brigitte Bardot and the reintroduction of the platform shoe.
But it was his decade-long collaboration with French fashion designer Christian Dior that established his career. Vivier worked with elaborate and expensive materials including jewels, silks, pearls, beads, lace and metal threads and his shoes were the epitome of mid-century glamour. His early training at École des Beaux Arts is evident in the sculptural heels and toes he created and his work for Dior saw the most imaginative of designs, boasting innovations like the 1958 Etrave heel that took the shape of a tapered hourglass. Heels were Vivier’s forte, and he was also the father of the Aiguille stiletto, launched in 1954, and the sinuous Virgule heel, considered the manifesto of his namesake label since 1963. A skillful artisan with a genuine passion for feminine elegance, Vivier had a flair for elevating shoes to proper works of art, working hand in hand with celebrated French embroidery houses.
Vivier is the only one of Dior's collaborators who was permitted to have a credit on the final design - “Christian Dior créé par Roger Vivier” - that is marked inside every shoe. After Dior’s death in 1957, Vivier continued to produce elegant footwear for the House of Dior, but set out on his own in 1963.
Ever engaged in designing shoes, Vivier worked right up until his death in 1998 at the age of 90. Throughout his illustrious career, he sought to refine his process and continually strove for perfection, and the Roger Vivier company remains one of the most creative footwear brands today.