Ines de la Fressange and Bruno Frisoni are the extraordinary duo who have propelled Roger Vivier, an august, beloved but sadly recently forgotten Parisian footwear atelier into becoming a much coveted and eminently desirable maison of exquisite, contemporary accessories that are chic sophistication personified, but with a light-hearted, witty and irresistible soul at its core.
The ability to intrinsically understand who the right people for the job are is a reflection of any great entrepreneur’s capacities. And Diego Della Valle could not have chosen a more fitting team than Inès de la Fressange, a legendary beauty with brains, and Bruno Frisoni, a designer of extraordinary vision and simplicity, when he decided to re-launch the Vivier brand, which he acquired in 2000. Unbeknownst to either of them he met and interviewed them individually and listened as both spoke highly of each other, based solely on their mutual reputations. Thus the deal was done and Ms. de la Fressange became the brand’s Ambassadress and Mr. Frisoni its designer. One can call this serendipity, but more likely it is a gift of the very savvy.
“Who doesn’t know Inès?” asks Mr. Frisoni quite rightly. After all, Karl Lagerfeld personally chose her as Chanel’s first official muse, and then the French authorities selected her likeness to represent France’s everywoman and National symbol, Marianne. She is charming and modest to a fault. Her vivacious personality and brio are contagious, as she nonchalantly and quite sincerely laughs away the endless praises for her beauty and utterly impeccable style, in perfect English, with just a touch of a French accent that makes her appeal all the more alluring. When asked about her enviable dress sense, in a burst of laughter she exclaims: “ME?! I am just an old lady who wakes up every morning and like most women stares at her cupboard in despair thinking I have nothing to wear!” She lowers her voice as she shares the secret to her style: “I have been working in fashion for a long time and I figured out what works best for me and stick to it. You see, I am just very lazy!” Voilà! Vivier’s Ambassadress may well be a lazy dresser, but her unique vision of the world and perspicacity also make her an astute business woman who adds her own personal touch to Roger Vivier, ensuring not just success, but a success tinged with Ms. De la Fresange’s 'je ne sais quoi' and sense of fun. Take the decision to chauffeur her VIP guests to the opening of the Paris boutique not in limos, but double decker buses and the ultimate French car, the one and only Deux Cheveaux, to then be greeted by a hot pink and black zebra patterned ‘red carpet’ on arrival. Or the choice of interviewing all the sales staff personally as she was tired of dealing with sulky, snobby and rude salespeople. She also knew Mr. Vivier personally and knowing the man, means that she has a special understanding of the brand she is Ambassador to. “He was a darling gentleman, polite and sweet, so low profile, not a diva but a modest man with a very open mind.”
Which could be a description of Bruno Frisoni, a soft-spoken man with over-sized spectacles, a tall, lean frame, and a self-effacing quality that is beguiling as it is refreshing. One cannot help but wonder how such stunning, show-stopping creations can come out of this unassuming and gracious man, with a sharp sense of humour who shares Mr. Vivier’s love of couture, fabrics, flowers and textures – as well as an understanding of women’s singular and occasionally mind-boggling relationship with their shoes. A perfectionist who never sits on his laurels, but through his watercolours is constantly exploring the infinite variety of creative possibilities that are made more boundless by his endless imagination.
The secret to balancing the Vivier heritage and ethos with the brand’s contemporary allure, says Ms. De la Fressange, is to “not respect the past too much, like a religion, but to simply have faith in it”; words to live by and which have made Inès and Bruno Frisoni the perfect keepers of the Roger Vivier flame by virtue of their talent, verve and vision.