Roger Vivier, el diseñador de calzado que esculpió el tacón definitivo - Portada

Roger Vivier, the shoe designer behind the ultimate heel

Roger Vivier was one of the greatest shoe designers of the twentieth century, a constant innovator of shoe shopping, releasing milestones such as the stiletto heel. The French creative changed the course of shoe design, uniting comfort, practicality and a touch of inimitable fantasy.

Vivier has been given such nicknames as “the Fragonard of the shoe”, in homage of the eighteenth century Rococo painter. His designs have even become known as the “Fabergé of Footwear”. In-vogue stars from all walks of culture such as Marlene Dietrich, Queen Elizabeth II, The Beatles, Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot have all been seen in his models.

Want to know more about Roger Vivier and discover some of his incredible designs? Keep reading!

The sculpture student who pursued his passion for shoes through the theatre

Roger Vivier was born in Paris in 1907 and when he was but 13 years old, he had his first experience in the shoe industry working in a local factory. In 1924 he began to study sculpture at the École des beaux-arts in the French capital, something that would give his designs the edge to be considered as absolute works of art.

However, just two years later he decided to leave the school and set himself up as a shoemaker’s apprentice. At this time, he was very attracted to the theatre and music-hall, to the point of starting a career in stage design. This marked one of the great turning points of his journey: backstage one night, he met Mistinguett and Josephine Baker, for whom he designed his first made-to-measure shoes.

Roger Vivier, el diseñador de calzado que esculpió el tacón definitivo - Modelo ejemplo

These early creations already reveal Roger Vivier’s trademark: designs and textures reminiscent of sculptural masterpieces. Each shoe is slim, elegant and exudes decorative fantasy. Such was the impetus that in 1937, Vivier launched his first store in the Rue Royale in Paris.

His rise to the heights of pioneering shoe design

This same year, Roger Vivier opened his own shop and released some pioneering platforms; together with Ferragamo, they opened the door for this style of footwear. The model soared in popularity when Marlene Dietrich was seen wearing it; one of the greatest icons of the moment and of the whole twentieth century.

Roger Vivier, el diseñador de calzado que esculpió el tacón definitivo - Boutique

Vivier never stopped innovating, being the first in 1945 to design shoes from transparent plastic. His unique vision meant he was chosen as head of footwear for Dior’s New Look during the 1950s. In addition to his signature designs, he would also go on to collaborate with Balmain, Jean Patou, Nina Ricci and Yves Saint Laurent.

Among the highlights of his career is Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. The young queen, who at the time was 27 years old, chose Vivier’s shoes because she believed each model was a work of art, as well as being greatly comfortable designs.


Roger Vivier, el diseñador de calzado que esculpió el tacón definitivo - Isabel II

Newspaper cut out with Queen Elizabeth II’s shoe

The following year saw another of Roger Vivier’s milestones. He released the ultimate stiletto heel design “with the stoke of a pencil”, as he put it. The 6 cm heel grew to 8 cm, and Vivier solidified his place in the history of design. But, that wouldn’t be his final trailblazing contribution.

In fact, in 1959, he launched the alternative to the stiletto: the Choc heel. This model is famous for it’s curves, reminiscent of the female figure and with a very attractive result. With the end of the 1950s, it is not surprising that the next decade of design was led entirely by Vivier.

Roger Vivier, el diseñador de calzado que esculpió el tacón definitivo - Tacón Choc

Examples of the Choc heel in different colours

Roger Vivier, the most iconic shoe designer of the 1960s

If you thought that Roger Vivier’s heels, after revolutionising fashion with the stiletto and the Choc, would stop there, you were wrong! In 1963 he launched the Virgule, a sinuous heel that would become an iconic brand image.

Roger Vivier, el diseñador de calzado que esculpió el tacón definitivo - Talón Virgule

Sketch of the Virgule Heel by Roger Vivier

Two years later, another of the designer’s and the brand’s greatest models stepped onto the stage: Belle Vivier, a shoe with a silver metal buckle called Boucle that has become another Vivier trademark. This particular model was created for Catherine Deneuve in Luis Buñuel’s film Belle de Jour.

He was also responsible for Brigitte Bardot’s famous thigh-high boots in 1967. Towards the end of the 60s, he also designed satin silk boots and models that would be worn by The Beatles, who were passionate fans of his creations.

Roger Vivier, el diseñador de calzado que esculpió el tacón definitivo - 1960s

Catherine Deneuve with her Belle Vivier and Brigitte Bardot with her iconic boots

Roger Vivier passed away in 1998, leaving a lasting imprint on footwear and fashion design, but also on his contemporaries and students such as Christian Louboutin. His brand has kept its creative flame burning strong and is currently experiencing huge success, with boutiques in the most emblematic places in the world.

At the same time, Vivier’s creations, considered “haute couture of footwear”, are exhibited in major museums such as the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and, of course, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. In fact, given we have mentioned some of his milestone designs, why not visit the website of this last museum and dive into its fascinating catalogue?

Roger Vivier, el diseñador de calzado que esculpió el tacón definitivo - Tacones

If you want to continue discovering who Roger Vivier was, visit the page dedicated to the designer himself on the brand’s website, the source of many of the photos featured in this post. We hope that this great shoe designer’s innovations and creations have fascinated you as much they have us!


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