Meredith Damouni sits down in The Dubai Mall boutique with Gherardo Felloni, Creative Director of Roger Vivier, to discuss being authentic, designing with instinct and the Metaverse.
Do you ever see this brand going into the Metaverse?
Why not? I don’t see many differences between buying digital and digital accessories. We are not there yet, but it’s a great way to speak to the younger generations.
When you have a brand that’s so nostalgic, how do you keep the brand?
I’m a designer working for Roger Vivier, so I think my big goal is to bring this brand into the future, and then someone else will come and take it forward. My job is to keep the brand as contemporary as I can. I want to make the history of the brand visible and relevant — today the big goal is to make something visible as there’s too much information. There are many beautiful brands, but I think that Roger Vivier is quite beautiful. There’s a lot of savoir-faire, small production runs, which is beautiful.
Tell us about some of the decisions in design – how do you build the new language?
In a way, there are two Gherardos while I’m working. There’s the one with the instinct, 90% and the one with the purpose, 10% – the one with the purpose of communication that I need to make people understand. Usually, someone asks you WHY – and usually, there is no answer — it’s just instinctive. When you’re designing there must be some relevance and connection with the customer.
Crystals and rhinestones are inherent in the brand but I can notice many design choices that have been made to incorporate more modern design.
To make it understandable and reachable for new generations you have to rework some of the codes. Roger Vivier was the inventor of the strass buckle… so my job is to rework that. All the buckles that you see here are not from the archive they are technically better. The technique is really important in the shoe business because of the craft.
Roger Vivier invented the ball heel for Marlene Dietrich in the 60s – now to develop these styles, technology is so important. Using shiny lacquered elements, matte elements .. these things make it modern. That’s my way to take the code and make it for today.
Also adding playful elements. it’s so beautiful.
To cover a shoot in satin is very hard – not everyone can do this. In Roger Vivier, we are playing with the mix and matching of different fabrications to make the shoes special.
How do you build a new design language in your collections to keep the brand heritage and also keep the brand relevant?
There are many talented designers out there, but I’ve seen many times in my career, that I’ve done something that is not really ‘understandable’ and later the meaning has exposed itself – although it was not my intention at the time. It’s important to be understood for people to find meaning and connection. My designers need to be understandable and relevant to new generations. So I will take a cod of the brand – for instance, the buckle – and I will say to myself, “Roger Vivier was the inventor of the buckle on a shoe, the strass buckle” but then I will need to develop the idea further. You see all the buckles in the current collection are not the buckles of the archive, but the inspiration is still there. Technically, they are the buckles are a new generation, they are more advanced than they were in the past.
Roger Vivier invented the ball strass heel for Marlene Dietrich in the 60s. So this is also something really iconic and so deeply part of the brand, that I wanted to create for now. I made a new cube heel, but this technique could not have been created in history as the technology was not there to create such a design.
As you can see now the majority of the heels I am crafting now, are made from ABS with Lacquer which is an incredible material that is strong and flexible and allows for different shapes that were simply not possible before. This allows me to keep my artistic spirit and also allows us to play with the codes of the brand authentically.
Working with fabric on shoes is very difficult.
Yes to cover a shoe in satin is very difficult, especially the shapes of our shoes which are all unique and special. There are so many things that we mix and match to make the shoe modern. Do you see even inside the shoe you will find a heart – this is padded to make the shoe more comfortable for our clients, and also a sign to them that we love them.
How much data is being given to you in your design process? Is this something you are being encouraged to work with or consider?
You know what, I’m working for 23 years in this industry, and I have to say that the most successful shoes or bags I’ve designed are never decided on the table. Even if you look at the past, it’s the trends that have been set that have come from the creativity that have stood out. So no, we are still working from instinct and in a response to our environment. But this does include business, we are very interested in what’s happening and culture, but we are responsive and as a good designer you must do things that we love but that will also sell well. You know the best information is when we meet the clients on the store floor.
There are three big steps in the process of the shoe getting sold. The Creation, The Production and The Selling. And we are all doing different things at different times, so for me when I come into the store and I see the reaction of the customers to our work, it’s really exciting and I love it.
If you’re not out on the street or listening to the customers, then you’re not in it. So it’s not data, but it’s the awareness that we have and we are listening to it all the time.
Tell us the inspiration for the retail fit-out.
We are renewing all our stores globally but The Dubai Mall Store comes from the actual ‘house’ and ‘home’ of Roger Vivier. The idea was to bring his home elements into the retail environment. The inspiration comes from our archive and images of the real home of Roger Vivier. He was a genius and his home was incredible.
With your mission of keeping the brand relevant, how many collections ahead are you working on?
Today we are working very closely to the time as things are changing so fast. We are working ahead as much as we can, but not too much as we need to be adaptable. We are growing and our collections are changing. When I started working for the brand we had 2 collections per year. Then we split it to 4, then 6 and now 8, So it’s more drops each year but it’s really beautiful and fresh. We cannot escape globalisation and also we must understand that this is a new way.
I’m Italian, I moved to Paris, I’m used to moving and changing, adapting. It’s beautiful.
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