New York usually holds the dubious honor of being the place of many ‘firsts’ for its many inhabitants and visitors due to its magical, anything-is-possible aura. For Roger Vivier creative director Gherardo Felloni, it certainly was when he received his first significant shoe design award. FashionNetwork.com caught up with Felloni on a brief but eventful trip to the Big Apple.
Between Diet Cokes at the Titsou Bar, the discreet and cozy cocktail lounge tucked away in a sliding wall at Hotel Barrière in Tribeca, Felloni entertained a revolving group of New York press and editors. He was just coming off his Footwear News Achievement Award for Designer of the Year, which celebrated its award the night before.
“I could say this is my first big one; certainly, my first real award in America. It was a big production. I had to write and read something, but I prefer just speaking. But everyone was reading something even if it was casual, not with a prompter,” he said, noting English was not his first language; thus, it added to his nervousness. “What am I going to say? Thank you and ciao,” he recalled.
According to news reports, the designer was eloquent about the challenge of joining creativity and commerce and thanking his father for steering him into the family shoe business when he initially wanted to pursue architecture or opera singing. His pedigree set him up for quality shoemaking; his father and uncle owned a shoe factory that produced shoes for Prada.
“I am a shoe designer, and to have this kind of prize is important working for Roger Vivier; shoes are important for us,” he told FashionNetwork.com.
While in town, Felloni checked on the new store revamp, another first as it’s his premiere effort to have a hand designing the brand’s retail space. Roger Vivier recently closed its 65th and Madison Avenue locations and will now neighbor brand sister Tod’s on 60th Street when the new space opens, presumably in February. In the meantime, a temporary store on the corner of 60th serves clients while the new space is finished.
“The old concept focused on shoes. It’s more of a refresh than a complete renovation. We needed to create a store with more space to display new categories such as hats, gloves, jewelry, the bejeweled gilets, and the bag line’s expansion. “Besides, the furniture was really nice; I didn’t want to throw it out. It’s more of an evolution of the concept of the boutique, like a home. Vivier was one of the first to do this idea 20 years ago, and it’s part of its heritage.”
Not wanting to abandon this idea, Felloni described touches such as a return to natural wood floors, pink fabric-covered walls in lieu of paint, and signature mirrors to be part of the new look.
Undoubtedly, the store will have the brand’s Parisian flair, which fits nicely with New York’s urban sophistication.
“The New York woman isn’t so far from the Parisian woman. Today, we are a global brand, and in my 23 years of shoemaking, in the past, I can say we only thought about the U.S. or European market, but today we have the Asian market to consider,” he said.
“There is definitely a link between the New York and Paris; they aren’t so far from each other in style. Parisians are more conservative. Americans, however, are more open to fashion and follow trends a bit more. You can have a trend in New York forever, but when they make a change, it’s quick, which I find exciting,” Felloni said.
According to the Italian-born designer, New York women are practical. “The new Canard style, which is a pointy-toe kitten-heel slingback shoe, is really American to me, a New Yorker shoe even if it sounds cliché,” he said.
Felloni’s whirlwind travels to meet with clients and press usually keep the designer moving at breakneck speed through the cities he visits. To wit, in the past month, he was in Shanghai for a VIP dinner, then back to Rome, where he lives just outside part of the time; Paris, where he works; then New York for three days, a long weekend in Miami to visit the Bal Harbour shop and a few days in Los Angeles.
The NYC and LA stops included visits with celebrity friends; in Manhattan, he dined with Lea Michele, Misty Copeland, and AnnaSophia Robb, and in the Pacific Palisades, Kiernan Shipka along with Laura Brown, formerly of In Style, hosted a soirée of his famous fans to include Alexandra Daddario, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Beckinsale, Allison Janney, Alexandra Shipp and Emily in Paris co-star Camille Razat. House muse Ines de la Fressange also attended the California event.
Felloni says brief stays still allow him to absorb the cultural cues of each location that inspire him. “I’m emotional; I walk five minutes and can get inspired. I don’t get too deep. For 20 years, it’s like this: you travel the world, and you stay 1, 2 days, or three days when you are really lucky. You have to be fast to pick it up,” he said, sounding like a true New Yorker.
His impression of LA style was spot on.
“The ladies in Los Angeles all have good vibes; they’re casual during the day with sneakers. But at dinner, they were all elegant yet still super cool, a nice balance.”
Despite the American trendsetting nature, his Big Apple stopover yielded an unexpected impression for Felloni.
“I see New Yorkers a bit conservative right now in terms of looks. Maybe it’s more casual than conservative. I’m one year in advance in design, and we are moving forward and away from the athleisure looks.”
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