Bruno Frisoni on footwear, fashion and femininity

Shoe designer Bruno Frisoni relaunched his namesake shoe brand in 2022. He speaks to Zaneta Cheng about his creations and why beauty will always have a place in an ever-fickle fashion landscape

Bruno Frisoni is one of the greatest shoe designers of our time. During his 19 years at Roger Vivier – the storied French house, with its square buckles and demure lasts, that Catherine Deneueve seared into the minds of generations of women in Belle de Jour – Frisoni brought the brand into the modern day with his dreamy use of strass, feathers, satin and embroidery. With time on his hands after his departure from Vivier in 2018, the designer decided to resurrect his eponymous shoe label, which he started in 1999 but stopped after 2011, and bring back his original signature pump made from denim scraps.

Drawing from different schools of artistic expression, Frisoni’s new pieces include the blooms that we’ve come to expect from the designer as well as different renditions of ribbons that have become signature to his label since it was resurrected in 2022. Sharp heels come with elastic rings that add an edge to an otherwise classic (albeit quite sexy) slingback shape. On other shoes, leather is draped to resemble a sculpture by John Chamberlain, an artist known for his use of scrap metal from automobiles. And yet, these shoes are beautiful – a counterpoint to the ugly trainers and normcore trends that have dominated the fashion landscape for almost a decade.

Frisoni is firmly of the opposite camp – a place where shoes are beautiful and the women wearing them feel and look equally so. Certainly at his press presentation, many of the women streaming through the door are so. Take Ines de la Fressange, who was an early supporter of the brand. “The talent of Bruno is that his shoes are always very particular,” she says. “Lots of originality and creativity but always elegant. Sometimes things are very elegant but very boring. Sometimes they’re very new but unwearable and done for runways. Whatever he designs, Bruno is always chic. When you have a pair of Frisoni, you just keep them. You don’t think, ‘Oh, this was last year’; it’s like a piece of jewellery. And for women wearing Frisoni, it’s like a code. It means you’re a connoisseur and it means a lot. It doesn’t mean you buy expensive products. It means you have taste and lead a certain kind of life.”

Your inspirations vary from technical materials, denim, elastics and metals to flowers and ribbons, which are both feminine and a far cry from what we usually associate with femininity. How do you create shoes for women from such a range of materials?

If you look at a boot like you look at a simple sweater, you won’t want to wear it during the day and in the evening, you’ll want to change and put something else on. So why not have such an array of options for shoes? I create around the idea of a journey. Take one day in your life. There are moments in the day where I’m sitting around. There are moments where you’ll want to run. Honestly, I won’t be able to give you the shoes to run in. In my shoes, you run on your toes. That’s what I do.

Could you tell me how you’ve evolved your brand and your creations? Did the pandemic affect your inspirations or the way you design?

During the pandemic it was, in a way, easier for us because we had more time to think about what was right for the brand. The situation across the world changed so drastically and dramatically that we had to review our way of seeing things and for a designer it was an incredible opportunity because we work to change. So the changes in the world helped push us to propose something new.

I found it to be quite an interesting moment. Not a nice moment, not a beautiful moment, but there was time to reflect on what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go. I knew I’ve always wanted to continue to do shoes. I want to meet the people who wear my shoes so I wanted a more intimate way of doing this. I’ve always been educated in couture houses and ready-to-wear so my head contains these ingredients, so to speak.

So when I do a shoe, I want it to be wearable even though the need is for something more daring – sometimes you just need those – so I design to give you these two things. That’s my purpose.

Who is the Bruno Frisoni woman that you’re designing these day and night shoes for?

There’s Ines (de la Fressange), who has been a supporter from the beginning, whom I met in the States. We were in a hall and I recognised the voice. I turned my head and looked at her feet (I always look at the eyes and then the feet) and she was wearing my shoes, so we had a chat. If I know the people, the women who wear my shoes, then at a certain point I understand their sense of fashion as well.

Ines talks about an elegance that she can always find in your shoes and the way the beauty that can be found in your shoes transcends trends.

I think a sense of fashion grew in me slowly from when I was a child. I was educated with the notion of what makes good clothing and I was myself very interested in fashion. To me, it’s completely woven together. If I work on design, I work on fashion. If I work on fashion, I work on design. It’s something that’s very linked. There’s no barrier.

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Beauty is a keyword for me. You can transform yourself. You can have natural beauty. You can generate beauty. You can love beauty, and you can hate beauty. Nothing is obliged but beauty is something that reaches the world.

We want the world to be beautiful and not the opposite, so that’s the key thing for me. If I can make it more beautiful, I go for it. I would never go the other way. Even if I make something in a raw leather, what we call crosta, which is a more brutal material, I like it to be sophisticated still because it can be sophisticated. It’s like arte povera, which is one of the most interesting periods in art, where they used the rawest material and transformed it into something beautiful.

How do you define beauty? What is beautiful to you?

Everything can be beautiful. It’s just the way you choose to propose it, to put it together. It’s like sometimes when you look at decorations of different places. Sometimes, it’s the confrontation between something that is super luxurious and something that’s really cheap – but put the two together and you bring about a conversation that makes both pieces interesting. But if you put beauty, beauty, beauty all together – you can’t breathe, you can’t digest it. Instead, if you put something that is beautiful and something less beautiful you can read into the ways the object or thing that isn’t beautiful might be intriguing. That is more beautiful. At least, that’s my way of seeing things.

So much is changing in the way we perceive femininity and beauty. Women once wore heels everywhere but are now opting for flats and trainers. How do you see this?

New things should be – again, fashion is very important to me. I just think that one should go for the classics but even if you go for classic, it should be in your time. Fashion is so many things but you’ll notice that there is a proportion that goes with the time so it is still a classic but one for today, right now. It’s also about the materials of that moment; it’s about colour, it’s about a perspective and an interpretation, a way to wear it.

We don’t wear shoes the same way we used to wear shoes. You’ll see more people with trainers because they want to run but at the same time they still go for sophisticated things. They might separate different days to wear different kinds of shoes. Only certain people who do things for Instagram or social networks would wear something that is out of place with the real purpose. They do it for the image and for the number of likes but in real life, if you’re out with your date and you want to look like the most beautiful girl in the restaurant, you won’t wear the same pair of shoes as you would on Instagram.

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