“Why can’t our shoes send email?” asks Bruno Frisoni, Roger Vivier’s creative director. The question illustrates his point that the modern consumer expects everything to be versatile and multifunctional. Frisoni is perched casually on a sofa in the private room in the newly opened Roger Vivier boutique in Lee Gardens. He gesticulates freely as he gives candid answers to #legend’s questions.
Roger Vivier belongs to the ranks of heritage brands, along with Givenchy, Chanel and Christian Dior. But Frisoni has been with the label only since 2004, when he accepted the challenge of turning the established name into a luxury brand renowned for its accessories. Having taken on the task and endured the tribulations of working for a respected label, he has come to know Roger Vivier better than anyone else – possibly.
“The challenge of working for any heritage brand is the need to make it new and happening. Roger Vivier is a brand that already has a name and a legacy, so what I have had to do is to make it relevant for today. It’s about understanding the DNA and philosophy of the brand and working with it, and knowing how you can change it. People today don’t always know what they are looking for. You need to know what they need before they do. But at the same time you need to understand what is right for the brand. For instance, there is no room in Roger Vivier for a T-shirt,” Frisoni says.
His strict creative control of the brand has yielded success. He has dragged Roger Vivier out of the past and into the present by making the label accessible to women who like to blend elegance and efficiency, while maintaining the label’s artistic richness and respecting its tradition of exceptional savoir faire. At the same time, he has managed to preserve the essence of the brand – sophistication and eccentricity – from head to toe. This feat he attributes to his appreciation of the need for life to be fun.
Frisoni describes the brand’s aesthetic as a blend of sophistication and subtle sensuality. “Yes, it is very deluxe but it’s not too in-your-face,” he says. “Even though the items are finely designed, the details are not the first thing you see. It’s a combination of elements. It’s not entirely ladylike but on the line between ladylike and street. Also, it always has to be fun. Life is too short not to have fun. If we can bring some fun into today’s world, that’s great. I really believe that when I work I need to feel the fun of it, and when that happens maybe the customer will feel a bit of it. Fashion should not be serious. It’s a playful thing.”
That certainly explains a Roger Vivier range that includes everything from bags and heels in classic shapes and colours to vibrantly printed clutches and crystal-encrusted shoes. The Viv’ bag, for instance, is available in a variety of sizes and looks, ranging from a sophisticated ballroom-worthy tomato red to big, colourful floral prints which wouldn’t look out of place hanging off a trend-setting hipster.
Frisoni points to the new collection, which is already in the shops, and says it has a 1970s vibe, the 1970s being the era associated with fun and joie de vivre. “The coolness of the attitude and living freely in the 70s was everyone’s dream. We still miss it,” he says. “All that freedom that appeared then, it was amazing. It was friendly and open. It was like a love message and I think everyone needs a love message.”
Frisoni cannot think of just one muse for the brand. “There are many different people who fit Roger Vivier, from Cate Blanchett to Scarlett Johansson to Catherine Deneuve. They all have a great sense of humour and are playful in their own ways,” he says. “You see an image of Cate and you think she’s a very cold woman but she’s not. She’s the opposite. The first time I met her was in New York after the Metropolitan Ball. She was like a girl, and not the cold icy blonde you imagine her to be. The same for others. These are beautiful women who are playful and embody things that are natural and inspiring, and this is truly the persona of the brand.”
Many celebrities are fans of Roger Vivier. Frisoni is well aware that fashion labels often form partnerships with celebrities or make them brand ambassadors. But he has given no consideration to Roger Vivier collaborating with its celebrity fans. “As a designer I don’t do collaborations. I work with the brands,” he says. “When a collaboration is right, it is great for connecting people, and it is always good to give more possibilities to the brand and to have other people coming to the brand because of the collaboration. But it depends. It is not always necessary.”
Frisoni’s main concern is satisfying customers these days who, he says, more easily tire of what they have and constantly crave something new. “Change is the basis of fashion,” he says. “If people are bored it is because we don’t bring the right stuff, and maybe they don’t find what they look for. Or maybe they are bored because too many things look the same. I think, as a designer you should keep your very special way of doing things and be unique enough, so people will come to you because they know what they can expect with you.”
As a shoe and leather accessories label, Roger Vivier must produce many collections or new designs each year to sustain the interest of its customers, and Frisoni appreciates this. “Ultimately, fashion is a market. It’s a business,” he says. “The more popular you are, the more often you have to give newness, because you want people to keep coming back. If they come back and see it’s the same stuff, they may come back once or twice, but not a third time. That is the way it is now. Good design is not enough. Good marketing is important, too. For instance, brands should organise items to arrive at different times in the store so there are always new things to look at every time the customer goes back.”
In view of the constant need to create, Frisoni and his team do not have the luxury of time to take themselves off somewhere in search of inspiration. Before work on one collection has ended, work on the next must begin. So the team have to sustain the creativity and generate ideas any way they can. “Since I have been working in fashion there has never been a pause,” Frisoni says. “In a way, you are always working and always relaxing. There is no distinction. When I take my holidays I try not to think of anything, but my mind remains open. I am always curious. It is being curious that gives you ideas and integrates things.”
This season Roger Vivier is presenting for the first time a sports shoe, Sneaky Viv’. It comes in white or black leather, and is embellished with the brand’s signature buckle. It is an acknowledgement that, increasingly, fashion collections include luxe sportswear. Frisoni says Roger Vivier is simply keeping up with the times. He points out that it is acceptable now to wear just a jacket and fitting jeans to the opera as long as the ensemble looks beautiful and sexy.
“A young generation always brings new ways to interpret things, new ways to dress, new ways to think, and you have to connect with them,” he says. “With the example of sneakers, almost everyone has them. You don’t just use them for running. It’s just like when jeans became a statement in the 1960s, and in the years since. Everyone has jeans, and they, too, have become deluxe. It is the same for sneakers. And people want this, for sure. People want to be elegant but comfortable.”
People are dressing in a more relaxed manner in part because it allows them to express their individual style. The success of Roger Vivier in recent years shows Frisoni has his finger on the pulse, but he knows success can be fragile.
“When you have success, you always are also afraid you will not have it anymore,” he says. “When you have it you want to keep it, so you need to entertain it. It’s like a relationship. You need to work at it every day. If you stay static, your relationship will be static. You have to work at it and make it surprising, every day. You have to be creative in your life and people will come to you.”