Entering Hotel Vivier, a one-night-only pop-up tucked away in a private home located in NYC's West Village, was a lot like stepping onto a film set. In one corner, one might discover an opera singer at work; in the bathtub, an incredibly limber woman dressed in a tuxedo stretched into impossible positions to better show off her shoes.
All of this was the brainchild of Roger Vivier's new creative director, Gherardo Felloni, a kind of movie character in his own right, with perfectly-coiffed hair, impossibly thick bottlebrush mustache and bejeweled collar set against a crisp white shirt. He seemed genuinely thrilled to be there amongst the chaos — and why shouldn't he be? Everything surrounding him — with the exception of the maison itself, which belonged to a fantastic woman standing nearby in a floor-length, crystal-covered velvet cape — was of his own creation.
From bags to shoes, Felloni has been tasked with breathing new life into Roger Vivier, the French legacy brand which first sprung onto the international stage after heeling Catherine Deneuve for the film "Belle de Jour." It's no secret that tackling heritage houses can be challenging for designers, but for Felloni, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"When they proposed the idea, I was really happy — it was my dream," Felloni says. "I was really at the seventh sky when they called me and they told me, 'Ah, Vivier is looking for you!'"
The Italian native is no stranger to designing youthful-yet-elegant shoes, having clocked hours at Miu Miu, where he headed up footwear, leather goods and costume jewelry, and Dior prior to joining Roger Vivier. For his first collection at Roger Vivier — Spring 2019 — Felloni dove straight into the archives, but didn't limit himself to the codes of the house.
"I was really happy because finally I had the chance to touch the shoes that I saw in the books or Google," he explains. "So I saw the archive, and then I put the archive in the back, because I never copy shoes in my life. It's really easy to copy something when you have a heritage like that, and I don't want [to do that], because I have to do it [in a way that's] contemporary."
The first two designs Felloni executed for the brand were the Viv'Run, a fashion sneaker with Roger Vivier's signature buckle rendered in rubber, and his version of the iconic Belle Vivier, which he renamed the Très Vivier. For the latter, Felloni reinterpreted the buckle, making it flatter and wider, and played with the heel to make it a more geometric shape. But he didn't limit himself to the basics, playing with feathers and jewels on pumps, whipping up rosettes made from satin and setting them on Mary Janes, most of which come in a practical, low heel height. There's plenty there for the loyal Vivier customer, but also much to discover for shoppers who may not reach for the pilgrim-buckled styles. (Felloni was wearing a pair of sneakers, but surely that will change soon: He also has plans to introduce a menswear line, starting with an elegant pair of evening slippers.)
In addition to revamping the brand's offerings, Felloni has taken control of its image. Hotel Vivier is packed with nods to both Felloni's love of cinema and his training as an operatic artist; the New York City pop-up was the second iteration, with the first taking over several rooms in a chic hôtel particulier during Paris Fashion Week. And to debut the Très Vivier, Felloni creative directed a short film starring — who else? — Catherine Deneuve. It's all a part of Felloni's vision to bring new life to the brand he's loved so much.
"My goal at Vivier is to make the brand alive; that's the first thing that I have to do, make it more contemporary, which just means that it's going work in the market — which is really important, not just at Vivier," he explains. "It's my philosophy of my job that when you draw shoes, you create the shoes, and women buy it and wear it. That's a success."
"Because if they don't buy it, probably it's beautiful, but there's something wrong!" he adds with a laugh.