Tuesday, 9 July 2013

A tribute to Elsa Schiaparelli

The House of Schiaparelli is back with a fantastic Haute Couture Collection designed by Christian Lacroix who was able to catch the spirit of the Italian designer.

Elsa Schiaparelli, 1936
For those of you, who are not familiar with the famous Schiap, let me introduce her to you: Elsa Schiaparelli - the Schiap for her friends- moves to Paris in 1922, invited by Gaby Picabia, the wife of Spanish artist Francis Picabia. 

During the day Elsa works for an antique dealer, in the evening she spends time at the Bœuf sur le Toit, a new trendy restaurant where the entire Parisian intellectual scene gathers, starting with the Dada group. 

Modern art, particularly Dada and Surrealism, provided a significant source of inspiration for Schiaparelli. 

She worked with a number of contemporary artists to develop her imaginative designs, most famously with Salvador Dalí. One reason why her rival Coco Chanel, "that milliner", once dismissed her as “that Italian artist who makes clothes.”

             evening cape in collaboration
            with Jean Cocteau, 1937
detail from the
circus collection, 1938

Her calling for fashion took place in the workshop of Paul Poiret, the epitome of the new century’s elegance. The great couturier gave her a dress assuming that Schiap can wear it better than any other woman. Inspired by these dresses, she begins to invent her own clothing. Her style is a social revolution through clothing: for daytime wear, she offers women warrior uniforms with skyscraper lines, wide and square shoulders, pointed lapels with contrasted colors. The evening wear is aggressively seductive: luxurious, eccentric, ironic, sexy.

It’s during the Fall of 1936 that Schiaparelli begins her collaboration with Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali. Together with Jean Cocteau, who was all about dual personalities and ambiguity, she created a jacket in grey linen embroidered with the silhouette of a virtual woman leaning on the bosom of the real one wearing it. Another interesting creation is an evening cape in blue silk jersey with a vase of flowers embossed on the back, in fact these are actually the profiles of two women facing each other.

With the drawer dress, Salvador Dali, a master on the theme of sexual attraction, she creates the Lobster Dress: a lobster garnished with parsley which is painted on the skirt of an organdy dress. The model was immediately bought by Wallis Simpson, for her wardrobe and her upcoming wedding to the Duke of Windsor. It is said that Wallis Simpson wanted to get rid of her man eater image and tried to look softer and more playful in the dress, not knowing that for Dali the lobster was a symbol of sexuality.

                  Salvador Dali and the lobster
Wallis Simpson wearing
the lobster dress, 1937 

At the beginning of World War II, she moves to New York. But before leaving, she produces her last European collection, « Cash and Carry », placing many pockets and fastenings on clothing for women who might want to escape. The collection has thirty models, including a wool jogging suit easy to slip into.

In the United States, she speaks about fashion during several conferences, she organizes a collection the benefits of which are sent to workers on the dole in Parisian fashion houses; she also collects medication.
Schiaparelli did not adapt to the changes in fashion following World War II and her business closed in 1954.

But let's have a look at the collection. You will recognize some elements from the circus collection, the lobster and also the "shocking" pink!






According to the house of Schiaparelli, this homage will be followed by a long series of different artist contributions taking place in succession at the Schiaparelli Maison. It will be an annual rendez-vous during which leading names in the contemporary art world will be asked to give their interpretation of the famous designer who is supposed to be the very first woman to combine art and couture.

No comments: