Outside of the French Embassy on Fifth on Thursday night, it seemed like just another cocktail party: PR reps lined the steps of the entranceway, checking off names of models, designers and muses – including Olivier Theyskens, Coco Rocha and Timo Weiland – who were invited by Ines de la Fressange and Bruno Frisoni to celebrate the launch of Roger Vivier, published by Rizzoli New York. When speaking with DuJour, however, Fressange emphasized that she didn’t want the night to be remembered as just another “boring party” – and her wish certainly came true.
Larger-than-life camellias hung from the walls alongside images of famous Vivier patrons like Bridget Bardot in her thigh-high “kinky boots,” while model-turned-songstress Karen Elson performed. But the best part of the evening was Fressange herself, as the French model, muse and author’s touch was ever-present on both the party and the brand. Bruno Frisoni, Roger Vivier’s creative director, was even appointed to the helm per Fressange’s recommendation – even though she didn’t know him personally.
“When they [Fressange and Diego Della Valle] asked me to do it,” Frisoni said, “I was so surprised. I didn’t expect it at all. I remember when I arrived they gave me a white piece of paper, a blank page. ‘Draw what you want,’ they said.”
“Bruno is very talented,” Fressange explained, “it’s not easy to find someone to keep on after Vivier, who was such a genius, but Bruno’s style is very elegant and it has a special little twist which is something that is very difficult to find.” And together, Fressange and Frioni have kept that “chic-but-never-boring” vibe that is so important to the Roger Vivier brand alive. “I don’t want Roger Vivier to be like other brands,” Fressange said, “I want it to be special.”
And what does special mean, exactly? “It started on the first day with the opening of the shop in Paris – they told me, ‘Would you like a red carpet?’ I said, ‘That’s very boring, let’s have a zebra carpet!’ Afterwards they told me, ‘Would you like us to send limos to VIPs, actors and all?’ I thought, limos, they’re very used to limos, let’s send double-decker buses or checkered cabs.”
Eccentricities aside, the duo have transformed the Roger Vivier brand. “Ten years ago the question was, ‘Who is Roger Vivier?’” Fressange said, “I think it shows that part of my work has been done.”
But the work of a brand ambassador is never done. Case in point: Wednesday evening’s conversation at FIT (pictured above), hosted by Valerie Steele, the director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT, where a very playful Fressange and Frisoni discussed practical footwear advice, of course. “When you wear high-heels it’s not a question of being tall,” Fressange purred, “If you want to be tall then you need a ladder. There’s this obsession that if you have huge heels on then you’re more sexy.” (Frisoni quickly added, “until you fall down.”) For these two, the glorious heels signify desire. “Purchasing a pair of shoes has nothing to do with reason,” Fressange said, “When you buy shoes it’s not because you really, really need them. No, it’s all about the fantasy and desire – men can’t understand that.”
Steele, a fashion historian who holds a Ph.D. from Yale University, told DuJour before the talk that she, too, holds a special place for the French footwear brand: “Roger Vivier was one of the first named shoe designers and was always known, for example, for re-inventing the stiletto and designing wonderful heel’s like the comma heel. It’s very nice to have a house like that and then have it be revived now with another brilliant and young creative shoe designer like Bruno.”
She recalled meeting the iconic designer, himself, years ago: “I met him personally when he was elderly at a little party on the Upper East Side. We all brought our shoes to have him sign the shoeboxes. I remember there was a display of some of his beautiful little sketches there and that was like meeting someone who was really an amazing icon of fashion.” Fressange, too, had a personal relationship with Vivier during her time as a model – when, as she explained, designers were shyer and more humble. “It was a time when designers weren’t divas and people didn’t recognize Roger in the street. Even at Yves Saint Laurent’s show, where he used to be invited all of the time, nobody knew he was Roger Vivier and I wanted to scream and say, ‘Look who’s here!’”