Roger Vivier was born in Paris, France on November 13, 1913. He studied sculpture at l'École des Beaux Arts, in Paris. Vivier opened his shoe store in 1937, but later had to close it due to the impending World War II.
Vivier's shoes have the remarkable ability to seem avant-garde yet timeless. He looked back into the history of fashion and forward to the disciplines of engineering and science for inspiration. Vivier worked with some of the most innovative fashion designers, of the time, such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent, at the height of their careers. Schiaparelli was the first designer to include Vivier's shoes in her collections.
He also designed for Pinet and Bally in France, for Miller and Delman in the United States; and for Rayne and Turner in the United Kindom. From 1940 to 1941, he designed exclusively for Delman, New York, and again for Delman from 1945 to 1947. He opened a New York store, Suzanne & Roger, with milliner Suzanne Remy, in 1945 and returned to Paris, in 1947.
In 1947 Vivier began to work for Christian Dior and the New Look brought new emphasis to the ankle and foot. Vivier created a number of new heel shapes for Dior, including the stiletto and the comma heel. During their ten-year association, Dior and Vivier created a golden era of design. In the 1960s Vivier created the low heeled "pilgrim pump" with a square silver buckle; this shoe is often cited as fashion's most copied footwear.
Vivier was one of the first designers to use clear plastic in the design of shoes. His first plastic designs were created in the late 1940s after World War II; however, in the early 1960s he created entire collections in plastic. In 1963 Vivier opened his store in Paris and designed collections for various couture houses, including Gres, St. Laurent, Ungaro, and Balmain. From 1992 to 1994 he teamed up with Delman’s again, updating some of his earlier designs and was constantly creating new ones to challenge the ideas of footwear design. Roger Vivier’s shoes may have seem shocking at first; however, the way they completed the silhouette is what made them so coveted by top fashion designers for decades. With a sophisticated eye for line, form, and the use of innovative materials, Vivier created footwear worn by some of the most stylish and prestigious women of both the 20th and 21st centuries, among them Diana Vreeland, the Queen of England, and Marlene Dietrich.
In 1961, Vivier was awarded the Neiman Marcus Award. In 1994 at the age of eighty-six, Vivier signed a new licensing agreement with Rautureau Apple Shoes, which in turn allowed him to open a boutique in Paris the following year. The Rautureau venture gave Vivier the backing to continue to do what he loved most, “design shoes,” but, in October 2, 1998, Vivier died in Toulouse, France. The company was bought by Diego Della Valle of Tod’s in 2000 with designer Bruno Frisoni appointed as creative director.
Vivier's strong combination of design and craftsmanship have allowed his shoes to stand prominently in the permanent collections of some of the world's most prestigious museums: the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; and the Musée du Costume et de la Mode of the Louvre, Paris.
Roger Vivier is perhaps the most innovative shoe designer of the 20th century and beyond.