It’s official: no one throws a party quite like Roger Vivier creative director Gherardo Felloni. Because really, who else would think of staging perhaps one of the most elaborate fashion presentations, culminating in a theatrical walk-off comprised of model-celebrity Anna Cleveland, would-be beauty pageants, a cancan dancer, a cheerleading squad, and coquettish French housemaids? “You HAVE to see this spectacle!” the Italian impresario told me, having greeted me with air kisses (it’s fashion, dah-ling) as I made my way into the brand’s chateau-like #HotelVivier location on a cold and rainy morning in Paris. And what a spectacle, it was.
It has already been my third time meeting the designer. The first, at his debut collection screening more than a year ago—when I caught him pulling off an opera act in a Parisian courtyard—and the second in Hong Kong, on an exclusive tete-a-tete discussing his newly-instated role at the maison. On our third meeting, it’s almost as if our previous conversation together had gone full throttle, the excitement in his eyes to tell me of his latest Spring/Summer ’20 collection hardly contained. “It’s always about putting on a show, but this time at Vivier, we’re taking you backstage,” Felloni enthused. “So here, in every room of this chateau, you can see different women in preparation of their ‘performing acts’, before they come out to do their surprise show which you just saw a while ago.”
Indeed, as I made my way through the vast estate (all three floors of them in its gilded glory), I found a horde of giggling cheerleaders stretching and chanting amid RV-emblazoned tote bags and embellished sneakers in what seemed to be a makeshift locker room, while in another, a seamstress huffs and puffs her way around a statuesque Anna Cleveland, pinning her dress as she went along. Walking up a little further and through a hallway, flirty showgirls complete in marabou dresses prepped themselves in a glamorous boudoir, showcasing dazzling pumps that could be seen from a mile away. A highlight was to find the Queen of England in her early years in a secret hall, decked out in the most OTT gems and of course, her pet corgi in tow. As someone who would coo almost on cue at the sight of a wagging tail, it took me a mili-second to bend down and pet Her Royal Highness’s fluffy companion—only to realise the iconic Roger Vivier Marlene heel glinting on the floor. “I took the ball strass from the heel that Monsieur Vivier created for Marlene Dietrich, and then I reinterpreted this time in a chunky heel with plastic to make it a little more contemporary,” Felloni explained, post-perusal. “So I mix the two things together: sophistication, with a casual twist.”
This irreverent and modern remix, has become somewhat of a talent the designer effortlessly imbues, a skill he had honed and perfected from his previous stints at Dior and Miu Miu (the latter’s cult furry slides are his brainchild). Still, it hadn’t stopped him from going further, injecting not only his fantasies into his ongoing collections, but also his charm and wit. For Spring/Summer ’20, that translates into the season’s raffia mules. “Like little rainbow birds!” Felloni exclaimed. “It’s the most ‘fashionable’ series I think, from this season.” Crafted from natural fibers, the mule stands out like a proud peacock on parade, its fringed detailing fanning out like wild and fantastical plumes. Once again, the house’s patrimony strass detailing takes centre stage, adding a touch of old Hollywood sparkle to such a playful addition. Elsewhere, sneakers are graffiti-ed and ombré-ed, while the Cabas bag is updated in a multitude of fun fabrics. “Like leopard!” Felloni intercepted, before quickly noting that it’s only just faux, lest your heart skips a beat.
Now in his third season at the maison, the cheerful, ever-energetic creative director has made an astounding impression with his upbeat and joyful approach—a complete 180-degree from what it was before, not three years ago. Since his inception, the house has already launched a new jewellery line, as well as enlisting red carpet favourites Susan Sarandon and Christina Ricci as Vivier stalwarts. At a recent brand event in Los Angeles, the 40-year old actress was so impressed by Felloni’s “Dali-esque sense”, that she even tapped him to make her a dress to wear on Oscar night.
Quite a feat for someone whose main breadwinner revolves around creating shoes, but therein lies the magic of Felloni, whose task today is breathe new life into the 90-year old brand. “You know, it’s my job to keep this brand alive. It’s my job to protect its heritage, and bring it into a new generation,” said the designer, just moments before we parted ways. And for that, he has most certainly succeeded.