Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Process to Perfection (Hopefully)—Preparing for the Vivier Exhibition

On May 9th, 2012, the Bata Shoe Museum  opened the exhibition Roger Vivier: Process to Perfection.  It is the first museum exhibition in North America to focus on the famous 20th century shoe designer. Roger Vivier was renowned for the bejewelled and elegantly sculptural shoes that he created throughout his life and many of his innovations, such as the needle heel and the pilgrim buckle, are as important in fashion today as when he first introduced them. 

 The idea for the exhibition began in 2006 when we acquired 63 original drawings by Roger Vivier.  The drawings were a perfect complement to the large collection of Vivier pullovers that we already had in our collection and offered further insight into Vivier’s working process.  Many of the drawings were of shoes held in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and so the idea to do an exhibition that looked at Vivier’s creative process and reunite many of the shoes that he created with his sketches and pullovers began to evolve.  

 Once the Vivier exhibition was added to the Museum’s exhibition schedule, the first order of business was to secure loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Harold Koda, Curator-in-Charge of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art generously agreed to lend to over forty pairs.  With the Metropolitan Museum loan secured, I travelled to Paris last May with the assistance of the French Consulate in Toronto where I researched Vivier’s history, saw the Vivier holdings at Les Arts Decoratifs and Galliera musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris and went to the Roger Vivier, Paris flagship store.  I also travelled to Romans to visit the International Musee de la Chaussure. 

International Musee de la Chaussure
Roger Vivier flagship store, Paris
During the fall my research continued, I poured over period magazines, read umpteen articles on Vivier from the height of his career and even uncovered patents that Vivier had filed with the United States Patent office when he was working for Delman during World War II.  One of the highlights of my research was speaking with Susan Train the Paris Bureau Chief of Condé Nast Inc. who arrived in the city in 1951 and had insights and memories about Vivier and the importance of his shoes in the fashion world.   

Roger Vivier research
Each bit of information gave me an increased understanding of how Vivier worked and led me down new avenues of inquiry.  Additional loans were also secured from Roger Vivier, Paris as well as the DianaVreeland’s family and Mary Robertson. 

Although research can never be done, the book and the exhibition were ready for the public to see on May 9th 2012.  I hope that both offer insight into Roger Vivier’s work from his painstaking process to elegant shoes of exquisite perfection that are as desirable today as the day he created them

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