Schiaparelli is back!

Posted by Maria
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Elsa Schiaparelli, 1932.

The splendor of the haute couture shows has been plentiful, but the week belonged to Schiaparelli. Fifty years after the eccentric Italian shuttered her doors, the storied salons of the Place Vendome were lit up anew by a collection that paid proper homage to one of fashion’s most inspired tastemakers. Her signature proportion of lovely lithe to sharp wit was found from the first to the last. The show’s opening look recalled Schiap’s masterful sense of color – shocking pink sunbursts against a blue ground that matched the model’s stringy hair – while the careful drapes served as a reminder of creative director Marco Zanini’s couture roots. The Italian Zanini, who cut his teeth at Atelier Versace before his stint at Rochas, peppered his premiere with referential details. Nods to the Circus and Zodiac collections are there, along with prominent zips, thoughtful buttons, novelty prints, and sequined applique – Lesage, of course. The surrealist touches were mercifully subtle (feel the grass under your toes in a pair of fringed crocodile sandals). And the hats! Zany, asymmetrical and wonderful. The closing bride was clothed, quite fittingly, in a perfectly tailored peplum pantsuit.

If this first collection is any indication, the latest brand revival (the first launch with a couture range since Christian Lacroix in 1987) has the potential to be the most successful in the age of conglomerate fashion groups. It is a house with a strong DNA and the legacy of an iconoclastic founder. The trick is to shape the structure of the brand to fall in line with the ever-changing whims of the day. As it happens, the zeitgeist feels primed for the Schiaparelli spirit. Smart female designers have laid out the aesthetic of the 21st century woman: Muiccia Prada, Rei Kawakubo, and Phoebe Philo to name a few. They have conjured femininity based on ease and modernity, dress imbued with power through design, and a challenge to the notions of traditional beauty through the irreverent trends of ugly chic (see Celine furry Birkenstocks).

Schiaparelli Spring 2014 Couture Collection, Photos by Marcus Tondo.


Schiaparelli Spring 2014 Couture Collection, Photos by Marcus Tondo.


In truth, the Schiaparelli launch has been cleverly positioned from the start. The announcement came on the heels of the Costume Institute “Impossible Conversations” show. The vacant position of creative director led to months of hopeful speculation (those Galliano rumors prompting fanciful daydreams). Last July came a promotional launch that bestowed to the public a brief yet gratifying return to couture for Lacroix. Finally, the week that opened with a look at Schiaparelli’s future closed with an intimate look at her past. Yesterday afternoon, Christie’s held a sale in Paris titled “The Personal Collection of Elsa Schiaparelli”. The landmark auction featured 177 lots, a collection of fashion, furniture, decorative and fine arts that presents a well rounded glimpse of the designer’s original, dynamic style. From the art she inspired among an intimate circle of artists and intellectuals, to the eclectic objects she collected from around the world, every facet of her life revealed the mark of a true individual. Horst P. Horst’s famous portrait of the designer framed in a Baroque mirror (offered in its original Vogue studio mount) sold for $55,805. A few highlights include a 19th century lilac meridienne-en-confident, a 20th century painted metal and tole bird cage ($16,124), a silk blouse from the 1939 Zodiac collection ($42,431) and a black monkey fur cape ($81,467). A treasure chest of calico patterns, compete with notes and measurements, sold for a cool $76,987. Best of all, the assortment presents a fresh resource for the burgeoning label. The exotic costumes illustrate how wide her influences ranged, furs hint at a devotion to luxury, and two Balenciaga pieces hint at her respect for the Spanish master. Perhaps these will be the cues presented in Zanini’s next presentation. Only time will tell, but in the meantime how proper it is to see Schiaparelli’s name back in shining lights.

(L) Schiaparelli Zodiac Jacket, Astrology Collection, Winter 1938/39. (R) Schiaparelli Spring 2014 Couture Collection, Photo by Marcus Tondo.


(L) Schiaparelli Spring 2014 Couture Collection, Photo by Marcus Tondo. (R) Schiaparelli Hat, 1948.


(L) Elsa Schiaparelli as seen by Cecil Beaton, 1934. (R) Schiaparelli Spring 2014 Couture Collection, Photo by Marcus Tondo.


(L) Schiaparelli Spring 2014 Couture Collection, Photo by Marcus Tondo. (R) A Schiaparelli Plaited Straw Bolero and Marching Hat, Pagan Collection, 1938.


(L) Elsa Schiaparelli, Paris, Photo by Horst P Horst, 1936. (R) A Collection of Schiaparelli Calico Patterns.


(L) A Napoleon III Style Giltwood and Gilt-Composition Meridienne-en-Confident. (R) 20th Century Painted Metal and Tole Bird Cage.


(L) Schiaparelli Violet Silk Blouse, Astrology Collection, 1939. (R) Schiaparreli Black Monkey Fur Cape, 1930s.

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