c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

PARIS — Roger Vivier, the designer shoe label that has done more to make buckles a fashion statement than anyone since the pilgrims, is the subject of a retrospective that opened here Monday night at the Palais de Tokyo. Curated by Olivier Saillard, the director of the Musée Galliera, the show is a shoe spectacular, whimsically tracing the history of the label from Vivier’s years at Christian Dior in the 1950s through its current incarnation, which has been designed since 2003 by Bruno Frisoni.

The shoes, more than 175 of them, are organized by design rather than chronology and placed in displays as if in wings of a museum, including the Department of Egyptian Antiquities, Italian and Spanish Sculptures, Pop Op Art and the Northern Schools. And Saillard has taken the trouble to give each shoe a playful, made-up title, like “Fragment of a Sculpture of Cleopatra” for a gold flat, or “L’ascension de la Saint” for a black lace platform adorned with stones and a purple lining.

A version of Vivier’s most famous buckle-toe design, worn by Catherine Deneuve in “Belle de Jour” in 1967, appears at the end of the exhibition, as do many less familiar examples of the work of Roger Vivier, who died in 1998 and is credited with inventing the stiletto heel as well as an inverted, comma-shaped heel called the Virgule. In one case is a 1968 thigh-high boot in red fake fur that resembles a Christmas stocking. Another shows a silk satin pump made with coated-cotton leaves made for Christian Dior in 1955. And others show the connection between the work of Vivier and Frisoni, like a houndstooth wool pump produced for Dior in 1959 in the same display as a houndstooth printed pony-skin heel made this year by Frisoni.

“Roger Vivier’s legacy is just like Dior, like Chanel, like Balenciaga,” Frisoni said. “They all bring something to fashion.”