Courtesy Roger Vivier

How Designer Gherardo Felloni Is Reviving the Luxury, Heritage Brand of Roger Vivier

When it comes to the luxury footwear market, Roger Vivier is instantly one of the most recognizable brands, for its buckle embellished low heels, jewel encrusted sneakers, sandals, and leather over-the-knee boots made in France. This year, the brand celebrated the 55th anniversary of its cult-worthy buckle shoe. Roger Vivier has been around for decades, worn by Queen Elizabeth II, Catherine Deneuve, Ava Gardner, The Beatles and for Dior runway shows in the ’50s and ’60s. Today, there’s no shortage of celeb appeal, as Roger Vivier  maintains buzzy events such as the recurring Hotel Vivier, a slew of celebs and other A-listers attend.

The brand has come a long way since its beginnings, but creative director Gherardo Felloni also puts a major emphasis on its archives, constantly reworking new silhouettes and shapes from years past. Felloni previously worked under John Galliano at Christian Dior before taking the helm at Roger Vivier in 2018. And his mission at Roger Vivier has been to inject the brand with color, fun, contrast and modernity. Here, we caught up with the designer just a few weeks after his first digital iteration of Hotel Vivier to see how he’s staying inspired, what’s next for the brand and more.

How have you been working during the pandemic, and what’s keeping you inspired?

Courtesy Roger Vivier

Nothing really changed, because I really believe that inspiration is everywhere. I'm lucky because I have the lighthouse I stay in, in Italy. It’s on an Island near Tuscany and I’ve been working on it for four years. It took so long for the renovation. During the first lockdown, I planted a lot of plants. I’ve been gardening every day, but now it's winter. So basically I'm waiting for spring, but I think in general, we are going to start planting again on another piece of land. So, it's pretty beautiful. I'm far from people. Everything is so slow. It's very useful. So basically I stay here in Italy and I have the chance to go to the factory to see prototypes. It's fun. I have been missing traveling, but I’ve been busy.

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How did this way of living influence your designs lately?

The last collection was inspired by flowers. I was in the middle of springtime and I had a lot of inspiration. But I also always check the internet, Instagram, Google. So basically, I can do a lot of research from here.

The archives of the brand are typically reflected in your pieces. How do you take Roger Vivier’s history and modernize it?

Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

For me, there is lots of inspiration, but I don't look at old shoes every day. I prefer it to have the idea of what I see, and work in my brain. I really believe that you never have to copy old shoes because your work is going to look old. So basically it's better to work with the reminder of that. But actually I have always been inspired by Roger because when you are a shoemaker, or a designer, you’re always inspired by the masters like Ferragamo and Roger Vivier. I'm pretty comfortable with the archive. Of course, the archive helped me to have something to start, but it's just a start, then I have to work on it a lot more because everything has to look and be contemporary.

What are some of your favorite styles recently that you've like taken from the archives and reworked?

From left: AGIP/Bridgeman Images; Courtesy Roger Vivier

The first one is the buckle, of course. I reworked the original from the 1960s. I think that the buckle shoes are one of the most iconic shoes of the history of fashion. Another one is the over-the -knee boots, called Cuissarde, that Brigitte Bardot basically wore for the first time in the 1960s. And that was pretty exciting to work with those, in terms of silhouette. They look a little bit couture in a way, so they're pretty special.

Is there any iconic shoe that you want to reinvent and make modern that you haven't yet?

Eric Ryan/Getty Images

There's plenty of shoes. I will see next month what I will keep from the archive, usually something comes to me at the last minute. 

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You often rework classic shoes that style icons throughout time have worn. Who are some of your personal favorite fashion tastemakers?

Courtesy Roger Vivier

I really love to work with actresses and I really love the idea that I produced a little movie for Roger Vivier for the Spring 2021 collection, because the brand is really linked with cinematography. For me, it's about the cinematography, and the cinematographic point of view. We made a film with actress Isabelle Huppert, and before that, Catherine Deneuve. I really loved the idea that I can ask two different women to wear Roger Vivier here. But the link between all these women is talent, and basically, I'm really obsessed with women that have talent, women who do something and do something good, you know, more than so beauty. I hope that in the future, we really collaborate with someone else who is interesting too.

How would you describe your personal aesthetic as a designer?

It's strange for me to explain what my vision is, because my vision is pretty spontaneous. It means that there's not a logical plan behind it, so everything's coming from the instincts. I'm not taking things too seriously. And I do a lot of combinations. I try to mix and match different things, opposite things that, for me, make things more interesting. I’m quite eclectic in a way. I really love to use a lot of colors that usually don't match together. I really love the idea of contrast. If I do something that looks cute, I always try to make the background not cute at all, or it's a little bit trashy or it's a little bit scary, you know? I think that makes a pretty interesting balance. I think my aesthetic is made by mixing things and the balance between two things that are completely opposite sometimes.

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How does that play into the most recent digital Hotel Vivier? How did you decide the theme and choose the talent?

I came up with the idea to make a movie, to stay current with my point of view, but I didn’t want to completely lose the interaction between me, the brand and the audience. So I decided to make an interactive movie basically, which was something like a game, but the viewpoint was completely cinematographic. I was pretty happy to do this because it was something that, in a way, was really contemporary, because you have to use it and to play with social media, on your computer or phone. I choose Isabelle Huppert because I’ve always been obsessed with her. She's a great actress. She's beautiful. And she's French. To do this interactive movie, I needed a really talented actress because she played several different roles. The acting talent was crucial for this project. 

What is next for the brand?

I've already started to work on the next presentation for fashion week. It’s going to be something digital again, because this pandemic is not finished at all. So I'm working on something new, a different way to communicate, but something that is not physical at all. We’re coming out with a Christmas project in the next few weeks. And also of course now, is the moment when I really start to work on the full winter collection. I think that one of the most important things that we have to do is to improve the digital part of the brand. I’ve improved it, a lot since I arrived, but I want to do more, because social media is much more important than before.