bal harbour blog

Roger Vivier’s Brand New Bag

Q&A
Inès de la Fressange is sporting the patchwork Miss Viv bag inspired by a trip she took to Lisbon.

By Jessica Michault

Inès de la Fressange is the definition of Parisian Chic. She even went as far as to write a best-selling book with that exact title, which has become a bible to women around the world looking to capture that je ne sais quoi French style. She is also the muse of era-defining designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld. Here, de la Fressange chats with us about her new capsule collection for Roger Vivier, how she sees her role at the brand as something of a court jester and the way she thinks fashion brands should be run.

Today de la Fressange is the brand ambassador for the luxury shoes and accessories house Roger Vivier, for which she has just designed a line of limited edition Miss Viv bags inspired by her world travels.

Jessica Michault spoke with de la Fressange about her new capsule collection for Roger Vivier, how she sees her role at the brand as something of a court jester, and the way she thinks fashion brands should be run.

Jessica Michault: I was fascinated by your Miss Viv’ capsule for Roger Vivier. How did it come about?
Inès de la Fressange: [Diego] Della Valle told me, “Why don’t you make some Miss Viv’ with fabrics you bring back from your travels?” Now, when a bag is successful, you can play with it in this way. When he saw what I brought back to the factory, he said, “What if women want to order these bags?” Because there are a lot of vintage fabrics. So he said, “Let’s embroider them.”

He loved the bags that came out of it and for the final two we needed, I’d run out of fabric options, so I scribbled one model with fringes and another in a kind of patchwork. Everything happened so fast.

Then we needed to present to the press, so I rented an apartment, furnished it and lit a fire in the hearth. A friend of mine painted a few watercolors. It was done posthaste with enthusiasm and joy, without plans.

That’s how fashion should be, with spirit rather than with business plans, strategies and market research, humor instead of talking about brand DNA, signature products and house codes and that kind of nonsense. In jest, I called the fringed bag Mademoiselle de la Frange spontaneously and with a bit of self-deprecation. And then some girls put it on Instagram and Twitter, we showed it to the press and I too put it on Instargam, only for a laugh.

We didn’t know what we were doing and suddenly it was massive, there was a waiting list of 41 bags. I saw Della Valle yesterday and we laughed about it. I told him, “We have a waiting list now, we’re really going to have to produce the bags.” And he replied, “That’s for January alone, we have to order skins and everything.” But it’s fantastic.

Ultimately, I tell myself that quite often, no one could imagine, when a little quilted bag with its weird bit of leather threaded in the chain was invented, that 60 years on, girls of 15 would be clamoring for them, or that day a princess walked into a saddlemaker's shop, that there would be people in Singapore today ordering it in full crocodile hide [editor’s note — Ines is referring to the Chanel and Hermes Kelly bags, respectively].

That's fashion. Suddenly, there are desires and sometimes accidents. Like the Tarte Tatin! It's a good lesson, a slap in the face of those businessmen who want to put figures and words before the first drawing is done, before fabrics and colors.

What is funny is that my 15-year-old daughter loves this fringed bag. She finds it cool and at the same time, so do 60-year-old women for whom it's a throwback of their younger years while keeping that well-made, very Vivier, very ladylike quality.

Jessica: And the bag that will be exclusively in the Bal Harbour Shops boutique is the Santa Folk? Do you think it's a good idea to make bags exclusively for one location? Is that the new luxury?
Inès: I don't think it’s a good idea but I'm not entirely the boss! I find fashion universal and that's what's amusing about it. Suddenly, you're in London or Seville and people have the same items. And I find that amusing in fashion, this universality, a little like music, it's anecdotal. That being said, people love limited editions and the uniqueness of having an item that is a "one and only" edition.

Jessica: How did you come up with the concept for the Santa Folk bag?
Inès: Oh yes, that's another story all together. Santa Folk comes from a very ancient document that I found and we drew inspiration from that. And I thought the result was a bit folk like that. I always dreamt of going to Santa Fe — I've never been — especially since intellectual friends of mine told me that it was very cool, plenty of artists living there. At the same time, I know that there are millionaire artists that are there, who appear to be cool but cool sitting on a pile of gold. (Laughs) I have a lot of favorable prejudice when it comes to Santa Fe.

And since Della Valle insisted on travel as the spark for inspiration, we found a geographical hook, because there was something to it. For example, one embroidery bag looked like cherry blossoms, so it evoked Japan immediately. Then there was this patchwork that reminded me of this exhibition in Lisbon, which featured ancient peasant kimono, in this washed-out indigo fabric. These farmers certainly never imagined for a second that their workwear would one day be in a museum. It was very moving, and at the same time amusing, to see this in Lisbon. You see all these civilizations telescoped into each other, ultimately.

For the Santa Fe, I found this piece of embroidery in an antiques store that I found so beautiful. But instead of recreating it on silk or satin, which would have been the obvious choice for an embroidery, I put it on a piece of vegetal leather that will age and acquire a patina. Names are chosen after the fact, like for babies. Sometimes you make all these plans on which name to give but in the end...

Jessica: So if I understand correctly, this line was a spur of the moment idea?
Inès: This is one of the things I love about Vivier. There isn't a precise long-term strategy in terms of image. In any case, in the post-9/11 world, if I had gone to see a bank saying that I wanted to open a first floor store for sophisticated shoes, with paintings and refined furniture, and gild an entire room in silver, the bank manager would have probably said, "Madam, I think you need a few days of holiday." Luxury was scary then and it was a difficult time for the sector. Della Valle, on the other hand, immediately decided to buy the name and revive the brand when he heard that Roger Vivier was for sale, with this mythical name for anyone who has an interest in shoes.

Jessica: And how many years have you been ambassador for the brand now?
Inès: I came on board just before the opening and when there was only Bruno [Frisoni], Della Valle and myself. Not even a press officer. People were calling me like they'd call the Prada press office, thinking that I had a battalion of assistants, when in truth I was there with Armelle, packing shoes from morning to night.

Jessica: How would you describe your role now?
Inès: Recently, I was talking to Della Valle about this, telling him that his idea had really worked out. At first people were asking me, "Who is Roger Vivier?" and I would have to explain that he'd made shoes for the Queen of England, invented the stiletto...

Jessica: And the Queen really came to the opening night. Or at least you hired a great look-alike of her…

Inès: Right! And then I said, "Well, maybe you don't need me anymore. There's room for four extra people in my office." He laughed and told me, "No way.” In fact, at first, we needed to build the image, reestablish and choose what the codes of Vivier would be, from paper goods to store design, even the images to be sent out to journalists. Now people ask me, "What is your role at Roger Vivier?" and I feel that I'm the guardian of the temple. Because the danger for houses that are very successful is to lose sight of the original idea. So I don't really have a title, no business cards or precise role. And that's also what makes Roger Vivier out of the ordinary. It's to have someone like me giving their opinion without being afraid of the boss, who is part of the house but without being in the daily grind; ultimately, this is very healthy in any kind of company, not just fashion ones. It's a little like having a court jester, so I feel this is my role. At the same time, I'm a huge fan of Bruno's work that has my entire admiration. I believe the stylist should always be protected, that he should be believed in, despite what anyone says. And even if we don't directly work together, it's important to have someone who is not the stylist and not the investor. It keeps things sane, like with Jean-Jacques Picard and his wonderful role at LVMH.

I've been a stylist so I understand styling, and I'm an investor in my eponymous brand, so I know the constraints of business too. But in the end, strangely enough, even at Chanel people called me "Ines," not just the model, because models don't go to seminars, sell product or tell the story of the brand around the world. I wasn't the stylist — that was Karl. I was just in the studio during the fitting. Now that I'm 190-years-old, I've gotten used to not having a formal title.

I'm Inès and that's it.

 

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