The Cone Heel Is Back for Fall—Meet Its Inventor, Maud Frizon
Though Frizon and her husband sold their namesake company in 1999, the legacy of the brand is still active on many levels. Sarah Jessica Parker cited Frizon as an inspiration for developing her own label, and the French woman’s designer roller skates predate this season’s YSL novelties by decades. The outsize careers of Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin also largely adhere to the template set by Frizon’s runaway success, of which some of the markers were a castle in Loire Valley, a Deco-filled Manhattan pied-à-terre with wraparound windows, and a helicopter license—all catnip for journalists. “Not since Cinderella has a woman caused as much to-do about shoes as Maud Frizon. Not even Imelda Marcos,” gushed The Miami Herald in 1986. Five years earlier, in 1981, Andy Warhol dedicated a diary entry to stalking Cher at Frizon’s Upper East Side boutique, a popular outpost of the era’s “get set.”
Danielle Maud Frizon’s shoe story began in 1941, when she was born in Paris, to a French father and English mother, with a special attribute: “I have,” Frizon once explained, “a perfect foot.” From a young age Frizon was shoe obsessed. “It’s a sickness,” she told People in 1980, “and I’ve never been cured.” A tall brunette with sculpted cheekbones, Frizon started modeling after high school, parading for the likes of Christian Dior, Jean Patou, and André Courrèges. She also showed shoes for André Perugia, the famous bottier for whom her first husband, François Villon de Benveniste, worked. On the phone from France earlier this week, Frizon explained that it was while touring shoe factories that she thought she could do her own collection. “My inspiration was really to see the workmanship and how they made the shoes,” she said.
Concept became reality in 1969 when, on the Rue des Saints-Pères, Frizon and her second husband, Italian shoe manufacturer Luigi “Gigi” DeMarco, launched their namesake line of handcrafted shoes. Brigitte Bardot is said to have been a fan of Frizon’s high red leather boots that worked so well with leg-baring minis. From the start, color and materials were central to Frizon’s aesthetic. “I have no rules about shoe design,” Frizon said in a 1979 interview. “I just love everything bright. I feel the same way about dressing. There should be no rules. Everything is so much more fun when you mix.” Perhaps it was this open attitude that attracted fellow Left Bank habitué Sonia Rykiel to ask Frizon to design runway shoes for her collections. Claude Montana, Azzedine Alaïa, and others would follow suit, making Frizon’s label closely associated with fashion and trends. “Having been a model for the haute couture in Paris,” Frizon told me, “I had this background of couture, if I may say.”
As magical and eye-catching as Frizon’s shoes were, they were never frivolous despite their decorative aspects. Although the designer said that an interesting shoe must have “something a little bit crazy about it,” she was fixated on craftsmanship. “For me, shoes are an architecture,” said Frizon. “I have always had with all my shoes a preference for the heel. [And] the cone heel for me was really something interesting. It was like an architectural project. With a classic pump [the cone heel] is perfect, because it takes all the importance.”
The point being, the cone heel is a savvy investment for fall—and beyond.