Who was the woman behind the Schiaparelli label? –WWD

PARIS – Schiaparelli, the historic Parisian fashion house enjoying a revival under creative director Daniel Roseberry, wants you to know more about the woman who founded the brand nearly a century ago.

The house, now owned by Italian entrepreneur Diego Della Valle, has partnered with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris for an exhibition entitled “Shocking! The Surrealist World of Elsa Schiaparelli”, the most important retrospective dedicated to the Italian couturier for almost two decades.

To illustrate her creative influence, the show features works by renowned artists who have collaborated with Schiaparelli, including Salvador Dalí, Leonor Fini, Man Ray and Jean Cocteau, as well as outfits by many designers she has influenced, such as Azzedine Alaïa, Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano and Roseberry himself.

For many visitors, Schiaparelli is best known as the brand that dressed Lady Gaga at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, Beyoncé on the night she set the record for most Grammys won by a singer and Bella Hadid at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Lady Gaga and Bella Hadid dresses are featured in the exhibit, alongside a gold sequined jacket worn by Beyoncé for a shoot in British Vogue.

“It’s a rare case where a house is very well known for what’s happening today, not for what happened a century ago, at a time when a lot of houses are talking about events from 50 years ago to legitimize today’s fashion,” said Olivier Gabet, director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

He noted that 46% of museum visitors are under 26, so it made sense to reflect the house’s place in pop culture today. The challenge was how to communicate how modern the original designer was for her time.

Born into an aristocratic family, raised in the luxurious confines of Rome’s Palazzo Corsini, and estranged from her husband by the time she arrived in Paris from the United States in 1922, she was an artist, entrepreneur and single mother – a trajectory that Delphine Bellini, managing director of Schiaparelli, thinks will resonate with a wide audience.

“The story of Elsa Schiaparelli is really the story of a woman today, who lived yesterday,” she said. “She was an influential woman with a capital ‘i’.”

François Kollar — Madame Schiaparelli, 1938, Photograph.
© RMN – Copyright management François Kollar, Charenton-le-Pont, Heritage and photography media library © Ministry of Culture – Heritage and photography media library, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / François Kollar

Founded in 1927, the company was closed in 1954 after incurring large debts. Since its relaunch by Della Valle in 2012, the house has spread the word about the story of its founder, starting with the publication of a book entitled “Schiaparelli and the artists”, published in 2017 on the occasion of the 90th brand anniversary.

“For 60 years the house lay dormant, so there was no one left to restore the legacy and tell this story,” Bellini said. “She has been forgotten and that is very sad because she is extremely inspiring for women today.”

Gabet said the exhibition, which was set to open Wednesday and run until Jan. 22, was part of a collective reassessment of women artists who did not always receive the recognition they deserve during their lifetime. “Elsa Schiaparelli was a fashion designer considered an equal by the greatest artists of her time,” he said.

“But Dalí and Man Ray do not mention her in their memoirs, even though she mentions them in hers. Female designers were invisible, in a way, and she’s not the only one being treated that way. It was the same for Meret Oppenheim and Leonor Fini. For a very long time, the history of art was very masculine,” he notes.

In a sign of change, Oppenheim will be the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York next October, while a major Parisian museum is preparing a retrospective on Fini, who created Schiaparelli’s signature bottle. Shocking fragrance.

A pioneer of the artistic collaborations rampant in fashion today, Schiaparelli generously shared credit for her designs, as evidenced by a jacket in the exhibition which featured an embroidered face designed by Cocteau with the “Jean” signature prominently displayed in below.

“As a designer, she had a very different relationship to art from some of her contemporaries, like Jeanne Lanvin and Coco Chanel. They were survivors. They fought to get where they were,” Gabet said. “When you grow up in a Baroque palace, surrounded by Italian Renaissance and Classical Antiquity, intellectually it is reflected in the collections.”

Schiaparelli’s father was an academic specializing in the Islamic world and the Middle Ages, while his uncle was a renowned astronomer. “His contemporaries were calling on artists to design their stores or create graphics, but certainly not to be invited into the fashion design space itself,” Gabet noted.

Marie-Sophie Carron de la Carrière, who curated the exhibition with Gabet, said Schiaparelli’s relationship with artists provided the gateway to her future clientele. She dressed Gala Dalí, who can be seen in a photo wearing her famous hat-shoe, and Nusch Éluard, the wife of the poet Paul Éluard, one of the founders of the surrealist movement.

A portrait of Pablo Picasso, featured in the exhibition, shows Nusch dressed in Schiaparelli, with jewelry by Jean Schlumberger, who began his career at home before becoming known for his designs at Tiffany & Co. Next to it is a jacket designed by Saint Laurent hangs. , inspired by painting.

Who was the woman behind the

George Platt Lynes – Salvador Dalí, 1939.
© Estate of George Platt Lynes/Courtesy of the Museum of Decorative Arts

The exhibition is full of these references. It shows how Schiaparelli and Dalí originated the newspaper print that would later inspire Galliano’s signature gazette motif. The surrealist painter collaborated with Schiaparelli on her most famous dress, featuring a hand-painted lobster worn by Wallis Simpson.

Even more intriguing is the Teardrop Dress, displayed alongside Dalí’s 1936 painting “Three Surreal Young Women Holding in Their Arms the Skin of an Orchestra.” Printed with a trompe l’oeil pattern, it creates the illusion of bands of flesh, foreshadowing the punk movement decades ago.

Carron de la Carrière said the designer’s recurring use of pink, including her signature Shocking Pink, was steeped in the provocative imagery of surrealist art. “It’s all based on skin color,” she said. “The lobster dress is also female flesh, the female genital organ. It is a celebration of a femininity that is both hidden and seductive.

The exhibition highlights Schiaparelli’s pioneering mix of high and low references, through objects like pipe-shaped perfume bottles or a bottle of champagne. Aside from her latest fragrance, Zut, all of her fragrances had names beginning with the letter “S”.

“We wanted to show what a mastermind she was in visual merchandising, before that notion even existed,” Bellini said. “She was the queen of the concept.”

The large-scale exhibition of Schiaparelli’s work is made possible by the fact that she donated her archives to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Union française des arts du costume before her death. This latest collection, managed by the MAD, consists of 88 garments and accessories, to which are added 6,387 designs, some of which are on display for the first time.

Elsa Schiaparelli — Collection drawing, winter 1938-1939, Museum of Decorative Arts.

Elsa Schiaparelli — Collection drawing, winter 1938-1939, Museum of Decorative Arts.
Courtesy of the Museum of Decorative Arts

Without any sartorial archives, the Schiaparelli house lent Roseberry’s creations alongside elements of the original decor of its place Vendôme salon designed by Jean-Michel Frank and Alberto Giacometti; drawings and collages by Marcel Vertès and Christian Bérard, as well as numerous photographs.

Gabet, who is overseeing his last exhibition at the museum before decamping to the Louvre, said MAD’s fashion exhibitions compete with a plethora of high-quality shows in the French capital and aim to attract a diverse and discerning audience that will beyond fashion. aficionados.

“I sincerely think that when you show drawings by Schiaparelli in the 1920s and 1930s, keeping everything in proportion, it’s the same thing as showing drawings by Michelangelo in a great exhibition of classical art, because that it’s fragile, it’s rare, you can’t lend easily,” he said.

Bellini expects the exhibition to amplify the conversation around Schiaparelli. “I think the halo effect is undeniable,” she said. “We hope it will resonate with a very wide audience around the world. That’s why we didn’t want the exhibition to be all about fashion, but also to focus on artists and art.


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