Roger Vivier - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

French footwear designer

Born: Paris, 13 November 1913. Education: Studied sculpture at l'École des Beaux Arts, Paris. Family: Adopted son, Gérard Benoit-Vivier. Military Service: Performed military service, 1938-39. Career: Designed shoe collection for friend's shoe factory; opened own atelier, 1937, designing for Pinet and Bally in France, Miller and Delman in U.S., Rayne and Turner in UK; designed exclusively for Delman, New York, 1940-41 and 1945-47; studied millinery, 1942; opened New York store, Suzanne & Roger, with milliner Suzanne Remy, 1945; returned to Paris, 1947, designing freelance; designed for Dior's new shoe department, 1953-63; showed signature collections, from 1963; reopened own business in Paris, 1963; designs collections for couture houses, including Grés, St. Laurent, Ungaro, and Balmain; resigned with Delman, 1992-94; new licensing pact with Rautureau, 1994; opened new Paris boutique, 1995. Exhibitions: Musée des Arts de la Mode, Paris, 1987 [retrospective]; Nina Footwear Showroom, New York, [retrospective], 1998; Folies de dentelles, Musée des Beaux-arts et de la dentelle, Alençon, France, 2000. Awards: Neiman Marcus award, 1961; Daniel & Fischer award; Riberio d'Oro; honored by Nina Footwear, 1998. Died: 2 October 1998, in Toulouse, France.




Vivier, Paris, 1979.

Vivier, Roger, and Cynthia Hampton, Les souliers de Roger Vivier [exhibition catalogue], Paris, 1987.



Swann, June, Shoes, London, 1982.

McDowell, Colin, Shoes: Fashion and Fantasy, New York, 1989.

Trasko, Mary, Heavenly Soles: Extraordinary Twentieth-Century Shoes, New York, 1989.

Provoyer, Pierre, Vivier, Paris, 1991.

Pringle, Colombe, Roger Vivier, New York & London, 1999.

Musée des Beaux-arts et de la dentelle, Folies de dentelles, [exhibition catalogue], Alençon, France, 2000.


Cassullo, Joanne L., "Four Hundred Shoes," in Next, December 1984.

Bricker, Charles, "Fashion Afoot: Roger Vivier, the Supreme Shoemaker Comes to New York," in Connoisseur (New York), December 1986.

Buck, Joan J., "A Maker of Magic," in Vogue (New York), December 1987.

"Styles," in the New York Times, 9 August 1992.

Weisman, Katherine, "Rautureaus Sell Stake; Ink Vivier Deal," in Footwear News, 28 February 1994.

Menkes, Suzy, "Master Cobbler Sets Up Shop Again," in the International Herald Tribune, 24 January 1995.

Baber, Bonnie, et al., "The Design Masters," in Footwear News, 17 April 1995.

Weisman, Katherine, "Roger Vivier, 90, Mourned by Shoe World," in Footwear News, 12 October 1998.

"Died, Roger Vivier," in Time, 19 October 1998.

"Roger Vivier, France's Footwear Extraordinaire," [obituary] in People, 26 October 1998.

Carmichael, Celia, "Legendary Status: Nina Honors the Creative Genius of Roger Vivier," in Footwear News, 21 December 1998.


Roger Vivier was perhaps the most innovative shoe designer of the 20th century and beyond. 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. With a sophisticated eye for line, form, and the use of innovative materials, Vivier created footwear worn by some of the most stylish and prestigious people of both the 20th and 21st centuries, among them Diana Vreeland, the Queen of England, and Marlene Dietrich.

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.

Vivier was one of the first designers to use clear plastic in the design of shoes. His first plastic designs were created in the late 1940s after World War II; however, in the early 1960s he created entire collections in plastic. Vivier popularized the acceptance of the thigh-high boot in the mid-1960s, a fashion considered unacceptable for women. Vivier teamed with Delman again in 1992, and the mood his later collections continued to be imaginative and forward thinking. Drawing his inspiration from nature, contemporary fashion, the history of fashion, painting, and literature, Vivier updated some of his earlier designs and was constantly creating new ones to challenge the ideas of footwear design.

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. A Vogue ad for his shoes in 1953 educates the viewer to look beyond the design. Showing the shoes embraced in callipers and other precision tools the ad read, "Now study the heel. It announces an entirely new principle—the heel moved forward, where it carries the body's weight better." In another ad from Vogue (1954) the experience of owning a pair of Vivier shoes was likened to owning a couturier suit or dress, "a perfection of fit and workmanship."

Vivier's shoes not only had the ability to complete a silhouette with an eloquence that made a whole, but the beauty of their line, form, and craftsmanship made them creations that stood alone as objects of art. Vivier's strong combination of design and craftsmanship allowed his shoes to stand prominently in the permanent collections of some of the world's most prestigious museums—the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; and the Musée du Costume et de la Mode of the Louvre, Paris.

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. He was remembered by many, including fellow shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, who told People magazine, "People try to copy him, but it's impossible to find that mix of technical skill and design." Kenneth Jay Lane, who had worked with the master craftsman, declared, "He was the world's greatest artist of shoe design."

—Dennita Sewell;

updated by Sydonie Benét

User Contributions:

Madeline Taylor
While often incorrectly credited with the invention of the stiletto heel, Vivier did develope a construction method that placed a steel pin within the thin high heel to strengthen it and stop it from snapping. This invention made the shoes more durable and easier for consumers to wear. The pin was encased within a moulded plastic shell that made use of modern technology developed during the war.

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