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schiaparelli

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The Woman making of

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Remembering Elsa Shiaparelli a look at the world’s first surrealist fashion designer

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Schiaparelli in her Studio

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here can be no doubt that Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the greatest fashion designers in history, and yet, it is highly likely that you, or even some of your most fashion savvy friends, aren’t perfectly familiar with her name. And even if you’ve heard of Elsa Schiaparelli before, you may have trouble conjuring up an image of her designs. In August 1934 she was the first female fashion designer to grace the cover of Time Magazine, yet somehow the life and work of this extraordinary woman has faded from public consciousness. While the world may not remember her, evidence of Elsa Schiaparelli’s influence abounds in the very foundation of fashion. A rival of Coco Chanel, she set herself apart from the pack by collaborating with avant-garde artists such as Surrealist Salvador Dalí and poet Jean Cocteau. Although Chanel may have won the prize for

fashion notoriety we think Elsa Schiaparelli takes the cake for daring innovation. In the roaring 20’s and glittering 30’s, Elsa Schiaparelli was considered the reigning monarch of women’s fashion. “She slapped Paris. She smacked it. She tortured it. She bewitched it. And it fell madly in love with her” proclaimed Yves Saint Laurent. Next came New York, London, Moscow and Hollywood, all who encountered Schiaparelli’s designs paid homage to the eccentric glamour embodied within it. In her creations one can chart the shifting roles of women and the social revolution that inspired them. Practical and whimsical at the same time, Elsa Schiaparelli called upon the muses of irony, eccentricity and function without detracting from the sensuality of a woman’s form.

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Oh

Astrology, Tattoos, Paganism & Surrealist Art shocking

Schiaparelli topped these suede boots with monkey fur in 1938. Courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A Schiaparelli belt with a hand-shaped clasp from 1934. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

a harlequin-patterned coat from 1939. Courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A Schiaparelli belt with a hand-shaped clasp from 1934. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Left, a painted advertisement for Schiaparelli’s 1938 Circus collection. Right, a detail of acrobatic buttons on a pink silk jacket. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

If considered in the context of today’s world, the work of this prolific fashion designer continues to be a shining beacon of experimental design. Female Designer Elsa Schiaparelli mastered the genre of wearable art. Many would still consider some of Elsa Schiaparelli’s fashion design “shocking”, indeed, shocking was a word Schiaparelli made her own. Much of

what we do see in today’s climate owes it’s daring to the likes Elsa Schiaparelli. Never before had the couture houses of Paris seen collections of futuristic designs crafted with innovation and inspired by the unconventional. Astrology, tattoos, paganism, the circus and of course Surrealist art were just a few of her collections varied themes.

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Where fashion meets art

Chanel vs Schiaparelli a fashion rivalry of epic proportions

A model wears Schiaparelli designs in 1952, including an oversized fly brooch

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The punch-packing name of Chanel continues to dominate the fashion scene, only taking on more steam in recent decades. However, this wasn’t always the case. Chanel was Elsa’s contemporary and competitor, and at times Coco existed in the background of Schiaparelli’s success. These two irreplaceable women were working in the same vein and both in ways that revolutionized fashion. They moved in the same social circles competing for the same audience and clientele with opposing

concepts. It was the flamboyant against the simplistic. These fierce competitors were often heard making snide remarks about each other and Chanel not so fondly referred to Schiaparelli as “The Italian artist who makes clothes.” Although Mme Chanel was attempting to put Elsa Schiaparelli down, this connection to art fueled her success. It was said by Janet Flanner, The New Yorker’s Paris correspondent at the time, “A dress from Schiaparelli ranks like a modern canvas.”

Left, Lilí Álvarez wears a divided skirt by Schiaparelli in 1931. Right, the 1930 patent illustration for Schiaparelli’s swimsuit with a built-in bra.

The 1927 sweater that made Schiaparelli a star.Forever Altered Fashion

The Surreal Provocateur Who Forever Altered Fashion


art world

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Elsa Schiaparelli made women feel beautiful, daring, and independent—by convincing them to wear insect jewelry, clown prints, and shoes on their heads. Schiaparelli “skap-a-reli” routinely made headlines in the 1920s and ’30s, overshadowing rivals like Coco Chanel with her outlandish costumes and endlessly copied staples. Schiaparelli designs were so avant-garde that they still have the power to shock, and contemporary designers continue to riff on her work today. despite Schiaparelli’s love of outrageous attire, her clothing was often extremely practical, adopting new technologies like plastic zippers and synthetic fabrics to create garments that made women chic and comfortable. She was a perfectionist who invented the first bathing suit with a built-in bra, the see-through raincoat, the ladies’ evening jacket, and the wrap dress.

During the designer’s heyday, Janet Flanner, a Paris correspondent for the New Yorker, wrote that “a frock from Schiaparelli ranks like a modern canvas.” The designer herself famously said that being a dressmaker was not a profession, but an art. “I found that it was a most difficult and unsatisfying art because as soon as a dress is born, it has already become a thing of the past,” Schiaparelli wrote in her autobiography. To stay relevant, Schiaparelli repeatedly worked the element of surprise into her designs. In spite of her profound impact on modern fashion, today Schiaparelli’s work is largely unknown outside the art and fashion communities. In part, it’s because she stopped designing more than 60 years ago, following the cultural schism initiated by World War II. The labels are still in production.

When Surrealism met Haute Couture a look at the world’s first surrealist fashion Designer

A pair of black suede gloves with red snakeskin fingernails from 1936 and a pair of aqua doeskin gloves with golden fins from 1939. Courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art Top: A pair of black suede gloves with red snakeskin fingernails from 1936 and a pair of aqua doeskin gloves with golden fins from 1939. Courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A Schiaparelli necklace of metal insects mounted on clear plastic from 1938. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Independence and First Success new york city

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She eclipsed everyone, including Chanel, to become the most important couturier in Paris

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Joan Crawford wears designer Elsa Schiaparelli in 1932 photo. The strong shoulders show off the use of the shoulder pad.

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Oh lala Tribute to Elsa

evolution

monsieur christian lacroix presented haute couture 2014

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Model Dovima wears one of Elsa’s creations.

In January, the first Haute Couture runway show since 1954, is presented during Paris Haute Couture week.

AW 2015 Schiaparelli Fashion Today

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A

frock from Schiaparelli ranks like a modern canvas

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Birth of the a New Kind of Fashion Collaboration collaborative oeuvre ensued from genuine involvement in the art world

The innovative advantage held by Schiaparelli was closely related to her modernist sensibilities and intimate familiarity with both the Dada and Surrealist art movements. Collaborations with artists are responsible for a majority of Elsa Schiaparelli’s most infamous work. Schiaparelli and many artists of her time held the belief that fashion and art share the same goals – to enrich and deepen an understanding of the world that surrounds us. Unlike the marketing strategy we see in many fashion “colabs” of today, (Stella McCartney for Adidas, or Alexander Wang for H&M). Schiaparelli’s collaborative

oeuvre ensued from genuine involvement in the art world and a creative vision shared by two artists and friends. And the inspiration was a two way street, with Schiaparelli’s work making an appearance in her creative collaborator’s work, as seen in a remarkable 1929 photograph by Salvador Dali, staged and altered with black ink, in which the model wears a astrology themed necklace designed by Schiaparelli. Coming of age at the beginning of the 20th century, Elsa Schiaparelli was pinned between tradition and modernity and strived to assert her individuality.

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end

Elsa Schiaparelli  

The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli Editorial Magazin

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