Roger Vivier was perhaps the most innovative shoe designer of the 20th century and beyond.
Roger Vivier was born on 13 November 1913 in Paris. Vivier studied sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and later apprenticed at a shoe factory. It was this solid base of training in both aesthetics and technical skills that led him to become known for precision fit as well as innovative design.
Vivier worked with some of the most innovative fashion designers, such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent, at the height of their careers. Schiaparelli was the first designer to include Vivier's shoes in her collections. Vivier was working for the American firm Delman at the time; Delman rejected Vivier's sketch of the shocking platform shoe which Schiaparelli included in her 1938 collection. In 1947 Vivier began to work for Christian Dior and the New Look brought new emphasis to the ankle and foot. Vivier created a number of new heel shapes for Dior, including the stiletto and the comma heel. During their ten-year association, Dior and Vivier created a golden era of design. In the 1960s Vivier created the low heeled "pilgrim pump" with a square silver buckle, and this shoe is often cited as fashion's most copied footwear.
In 1994 the 86-year-old Vivier signed a new licensing agreement with Rautureau Apple Shoes, which in turn allowed him to open a boutique in Paris the following year. The Rautureau venture gave Vivier the backing to continue doing what he loved most—designing shoes. Yet three years later, in October 1998, Vivier died in Toulouse, France.
Vivier's shoes are on display at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Musée du Costume et de la Mode at the Louvre.
Vivier's shoes have had the remarkable ability to seem avant-garde yet destined at the same time to become classics. He maintained an eye for the cutting edge of fashion for six decades. Vivier looked back into the history of fashion and forward to the disciplines of engineering and science for inspiration. The shoes may seem shocking at first; however, it is the way they complete the silhouette that has made Vivier so coveted by top fashion designers for decades.
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