’Virgule etc’: Roger Vivier’s storied shoes go on show at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo

Women shoes on display
(Image credit: press)

For women who adore Roger Vivier (opens in new tab) for the brand's iconic buckled square-toed pump, the new show 'Virgule Etc: In the footsteps of Roger Vivier', at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, couldn't have come too soon. The first comprehensive exploration of the designer's work since 1987, 'Virgule Etc' is more exposition than exhibition, offering up a chronicle of Vivier footwear that mirrors the history of modern footwear as a whole.

The late designer was more than the right-hand man for Christian Dior in the mid-20th century, more than the alleged inventor of the first-ever stiletto in 1954. He was an architect of some of the world's greatest moments on heels, shoemaker of record for the coronation of Elizabeth II and Luis Buñuel's Belle de Jour.

Curator Olivier Saillard - with scenography by Jean-Julien Simonot - unspools this narrative within the context of a grand Victorian museum. Organising past collections by theme (high boots, sculptural heels, exotic skins, Plexiglas), Saillard has pinned his specimens like butterflies behind glass vitrines. Iconic heels like the Virgule and the Etrave are displayed like rare creations from the Prado or Louvre.

'No videos, no installations, no interactive platforms,' says the curator, 'because I think the rapport with an art piece is very personal and it should never be exposed to any external influence. I like that life scrolls through, captured in the eyes of the view of the visitor.'

Saillard commemorates a total of 170 Vivier styles in 50 windows across the gallery's Saut du Loup (opens in new tab). Many of this century's beloved square-toed pumps by current creative director Bruno Frisoni get an airing - and some of his covetable Prismick bags and shoes have prime placement in the rotunda. Yet visitors will experience the biggest frisson ogling the designer's embroideries, scrupulously executed in sequins, feathers, crystals and tassels by the French houses Lesage and Rébé. These works of art evoke a particular time, place and mood - which really is the point of fashion history.

'Let's think about a shoe as an object of souvenir that draws on one's memories,' says Saillard. 'A shoe tells an epoch, a status, a story, a moment. Sometimes even more than a dress does because its nature lets the designer ignore the shape of the body.'

'Virgule' includes a room dedicated to sketches and collages by the designer. An iPhone application conceived by the gallery helps visitors navigate the vast exhibition.

Shoes on display in gallery

French historian and curator Olivier Saillard commemorates a total of 170 Vivier styles (along with 30 designs from current creative director Bruno Frisoni) in 50 windows across the gallery's Saut du Loup

(Image credit: press)

Shoes on display in gallery

Organising past collections by theme (high boots, sculptural heels, exotic skins, Plexiglas), Saillard has pinned his specimens like butterflies behind glass vitrines

(Image credit: press)

Shoes on display in gallery

Iconic heels like the 'Virgule' (pictured on the left) and the 'Etrave' are displayed like rare creations from the Prado or Louvre

(Image credit: press)

Shoe on display in gallery

Each shoe has been given a particular and original creative name, largely in French, especially for the exhibition by curator Saillard

(Image credit: press)

Shoes on display in gallery

The first comprehensive exploration of the shoe designer's work since 1987, 'Virgule Etc' offers a chronicle of Vivier footwear that mirrors the history of modern footwear

(Image credit: press)

Shoes on display in gallery

With scenography by Jean-Julien Simonot, the narrative of Roger Vivier's history is unspooled within the context of a grand Victorian museum

(Image credit: press)

Shoe on display in gallery

'Let's think about a shoe as an object of souvenir that draws on one's memories,' says Saillard. 'A shoe tells an epoch, a status, a story, a moment.'

(Image credit: press)

ADDRESS

Palais de Tokyo (opens in new tab)
13 Avenue du Président Wilson
75116 Paris

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