She has given shoes a fresh slant, lowering and shaping the heel, dipping the leather in bright colors and decorating shoes with appliques, piping, and other unexpected details.
And if women are toppled from their stiletto heels onto lower cone heels or other angular shapes, it will be in some small part because of the cowboy boot heel that has been around for years. But it is happening now because of the inventive shoe shapes of Maud Frizon.
Frizon is reluctant to tout her own successes. But those around her quote a $25 million annual business in worldwide sales (including Neiman Marcus in Washington).
Paris designers Claude Montana, Sonia Rykiel, Thierry Mugler and other used only her shoes in their recent collections. And in New York her shoes showed up on the feet of models wearing Scott Barrie, Cathy Hardwick, Richard Assatly and other designer clothes. Kasper admits he paid $6,000 at wholesale just to have the right Frizon shoes for his spring showings.
Her fans are no longer just the fashion crowd who snap up her shoes at $210 . . . they were "only" $150 last spring. Her flame spectator shoes, her floral appliques, her metallic piping in pumps of many colors, her cone heels followed by angular geometric shapes followed by fluted shapes are what they find irresistible.
And those who reject the ideal of $200-plus are already beginning to see the spinoffs of her designs with slanty heels, lower heel heights and bright color and metallic shoes for day becoming increasingly important for spring.
Frizon has been in the shoe business for 10 years, since she married Luigi de Marco, an Italian shoe manufacturer. She's reluctant to mention Francois Villon, the shoe designer in Paris whom she knew before De Marco, except to say, "It was a relationship that had nothing to do with shoes."
She's always loved shoes, though she doesn't know why. Maybe because she has always had small feet and all the stylish shoes were available to her and looked good on her. Now each season she acquires about 20 pairs of shoes for herself. She had started making shoes for daughter Caroline, 7, the youngest of their five children, who looks over the collection and tells her mother what shoes and boots she would like. It's not always what she gets, says Frizon.
Until 20 years ago France was the center for shoes. "But when France industrialized, the Italians continued with manual work," says De Marco. "And in the last 10 years Italy has totally taken over the quality shoe business for the world."
They live in Paris . . . life is better for their work there, he says. "It is close to everything that has to do with fashion," says Frizon. And with Italian fabrication, overseen by De Marco, they have the best of both worlds.
"The reason we make nice shoes," teases Frizon, "is that he (her husband) is Italian and I am French."
She says it is because she lives in Paris that she always feels pushed to create new things. "When you go out in Paris you want to wear new things," she insists. "Sometimes I like to keep something, but it is pleasant to change and go on to something else." Later Frizon adds, "We feel like changing because we wear one style and get used to it.And quickly we get bored with it."
After toes were round for a while, she made them narrow, first to the extreme of her pointed-toed Mexican boots. After shoes were extremely high, she lowered them, and lowered them again. After cone heels she sharpened the edges to make them triangular or other sharp shapes and then recently sculpted them like flower petals.
Sometimes changes come in response to fashion changes. Boots first came with longer hemlines. The lower heels with shorter hems. Sometimes customers demand a particular style.
Like the platform shoe. "I didn't like it, but in my shop we had people who wanted them, so we made shoes both with platforms and without," Frizon says. "But I never made very thick platforms. I tried. But I just couldn't bring myself to it."
She felt pushed to make heels higher than she wanted to last summer to please her customers. "They got beyond where you could walk," she said. "But, when I wear them myself, everyone notices."
But she only wears them for brief periods "at play," she says. "It is always important to feel good in your shoes, and I never really feel good in very high heels," she says. "And I can't have a good day if my feet hurt."
High heels certainly never returned for the sake of comfort. "They make the legs look nicer and they made longer skirts look better. And there are also some women who simply like to look taller," she says.
Frizon has always had colored shoes, never quite as many or in as strong colors as today, when there are 10 shades in kidskin, six metallics and more in suede and snakeskin. Only green is a loser color. "It never is the right to match anything," she laughs.
Frizon says she is happiest when she is at her chateau just outside Paris with her family. "That's my peace," she says. And there she only wears riding boots.