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Roger Vivier "Piece Unique"

Gherardo Felloni Finds Inspiration in Celebration and the Roger Vivier Archive

Eliza Jordan

26 September 2023

Gherardo Felloni Talks Roger Vivier, Design Inspiration, Personal Style, and More

It was July in Paris when Roger Vivier debuted its Fall/Winter 2023 haute couture collection named “Pièce Unique.” Designed by the maison’s creative director, Gherardo Felloni, it was inspired by the handmade details of haute couture and the French artisanry of its atelier. Under tufted pink ceiling drapes, 15 one-of-one handbags were perched atop platforms of an ornate ceramic chandelier sculpture and positioned in display boxes that hung on the walls of the room.

One piece, Crystal, was made in blue double silk and adorned in five hundred crystal drops and six thousand micro beads. Another, Josephine, was created in velvet and adorned with pink ostrich feathers, crystal strass embroidery, and a buckle made of 350 hand-set stones. Caterina de’Medici, a star piece, was covered in seven thousand natural pearls from six different cultures. Individually, each took over a week to make by hand.

After the presentation, Felloni shared with Whitewall how his approach to shoe design has taken shape, and how his personal style pushes the brand into a contemporary world.

Gherardo Felloni Roger Vivier

Gherardo Felloni, portrait courtesy of Roger Vivier.

“My style is quite spontaneous.” —Gherardo Felloni

WHITEWALL: How did growing up in a family that owned a shoe factory impact how you thought about the industry? How did you make the decision to stay in the same field?

GHERARDO FELLONI: My family is quite big. My dad is one of six brothers and one sister. They grew up in a really poor family after the war in Italy. In 1958, my father’s older brother, Roberto, decided to start a shoe factory in Tuscany, and my father joined him when he finished school. My uncle closed the factory in 2002, so it’s a long history.

When I was little, my mother and father both worked and they didn’t have someone to watch me so they’d bring me to the factory. I’d be there, playing with colors and leather. Cutting, coloring, everything. I think I had an imprint in my mind of how they should look. Once, my father asked me to help draw the shoes properly. I was very good at drawing because I was painting and drawing at home since I was a child. They asked me to do one page, and I never stopped.

When I started working on shoes at 19, I was really young, but I was already advanced. Other colleagues didn’t know how to make shoes, but for me it was quite normal. I also didn’t realize it would be my real job, but then I had the chance to learn and work. There, the quality of the shoes we were making—samples and production for Hermès, Gucci, and Prada—were quite high. Dior and Miu Miu. It was all a good “school” because the quality of what I worked with was super high.

Roger Vivier Junon Sketch

Gherardo Felloni’s sketch of Junon from the “Piece Unique” collection, courtesy of Roger Vivier.

WW: You’ve been at Roger Vivier for five years now. What’s typically your starting point for a new collection?

GF: It’s an amazing house. There are millions of sources of inspiration in the archive. For every collection, I try and find inspiration wherever it is. I believe it’s everywhere, but you have to catch it at the right moment. That’s the point.

For Fall/Winter 2023, the color palette is completely new for me at Vivier. There’s burgundy, black, white. It’s a bit more conservative. I also had a chance to launch a new bag, the Shopping bag, which was inspired by couture. There was also suede and napa leather in burgundy and black. It was quite rigoroso.

WW: What about “Pièce Unique,” where everything is one of a kind?

GF: It came from the idea that Roger Vivier is a rare brand, a rare maison. We are small enough to do this. We have beautiful savoir faire. I found it motivating to really work with our artisans and do things that no one else does.

On one hand, it’s made the team free. You don’t have to choose materials because you have to consider the quantity. On the other hand, it was time to make visible this side of Vivier as a brand. We already have clients that ask for “Pièce Unique,” and we sell that to clients around the world. It was something we were doing behind the scenes. Why not share with our audience that we do this with our savoir faire? The Junon, for instance, is made in feathers. They’re hand-painted to simulate the appearance of peacock feathers. An artisan in Paris made it, and he’s the last one to do this. That’s why it’s “Pièce Unique.” There aren’t others.

Roger Vivier Spot light Sketch

Gherardo Felloni’s sketch of Spotlight from the “Piece Unique” collection, courtesy of Roger Vivier.

WW: You’re known to have a strong sense of personal style, mixing antique and contemporary garments and jewelry. Does that impact what you design at Roger Vivier?

GF: My style is quite spontaneous. I like to mix things that don’t usually speak together. That’s why I’m wearing antique women’s jewelry with masculine looks. They are so different, but that’s my way of making things contemporary. Even in my house, there’s a big contrast. It isn’t just one style. It’s things that speak together in a weird way—my way.

I have a 19th-century antique jewelry collection, and I like to wear it with sneakers and a simple white men’s shirt or a Nike jacket. I don’t really like to wear jewels with a suit. It’s more about the contrasts that interest me. It’s always unexpected and spontaneous. That’s the same approach to my collections, too. I try to find the right balance between details and things that don’t usually go together. The idea to mix and match the archive with new techniques, materials, colors is more or less the same way I buy furniture for my house or get dressed.

WW: What’s an example of something you pulled from the archive and reimagined as a contemporary style? What elements did you play with?

GF: When I reinterpreted the Virgule heel, I took the shape of the old one and redid it in this new material named ABS, which is plastic. Evening shoes by Roger Vivier were usually dressed in really precious materials from couture—like silk and sabana.

And when I did a new jewel buckle, I used the stones in a naive, simple way. Sometimes working with custom jewelry can make things really old looking, so I played with the stones first by hand, taping them on. This naivety makes things contemporary.

A Look Inside Gherardo Felloni’s Home

WW: In addition to having a jewelry collection, you also collect art and furniture design. What’s in your home?

GF: When I left Milan, I had many pieces, so when I moved into this house and had more space, I had enough room to put everything together. I had pieces from Italy, all over the world, bought for different homes and different moments of my life. Here I finally had the chance to buy some new things, too, and put it all together, mixing and matching.

One of the first things I had in mind when rearranging and buying new furniture was color. I was driven by color and color combination. My walls are always white; I don’t like too much color on the walls. On this type of canvas, I put furniture, paintings, and vases together. I really like vintage, colored furniture, which is quite hard to find, but I found some things. I have a lot of Gio Ponti and Formica.

Roger Vivier

Roger Vivier’s Fall/Winter 2023 Haute Couture collection presentation, courtesy of Roger Vivier.



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and Lifestyle.