Saturday, 28 January 2017

Schiaparelli: Now and Then

This year, the house of Schiaparelli is celebrating its 90th birthday. Created by Elsa Schiaparelli in 1927, the brand took plenty of influence from the Surrealists. Known for her scandalous collaborations with Salvador Dali, the Italian couturier has been pushing the boundaries of fashion ever since her brand was founded. Schiaparelli has been celebrated for the avant-garde concepts, innovation, merging art and playful, sometimes shocking designs until the fashion house was closed in 1954. 

Almost 60 years later, it has been relaunched, yet there was still something missing — Schiaparelli's Haute Couture status. Now, as the brand celebrates its 90th birthday, Schiaparelli has officially been re-awarded that label by the French Ministry of Industry and the French Couture Federation.

Paradoxically, Schiaparelli fashion house is compelled to distance the brand from Elsa Schiaparelli to reinvent itself. This doesn't mean killing what makes the brand special and iconic, it means finding the perfect balance between the fashion houses’ heritage and modern take — it’s called brand revitalisation needed for any luxury brand in order to evolve and survive. 

The question is — can Schiaparelli return the couturier's celebration and praise? Now, ninety years later, the provocation that was central to Schiaparelli’s designs is tricky for contemporary designers to reckon with. The references to Elsa can’t be too literal, rather metaphorical, or indeed, surrealistic. Elsa Schiaparelli has to be carefully hidden, yet seen in every piece.

This week, brand’s creative director Bertrand Guyon has presented Schiaparelli Spring 2017 Haute Couture collection. The iconic and scandalous lobster dress — created by Elsa Schiaparelli in collaboration with Salvador Dali — has stolen the fashion spotlight, it was mirrored in tribute to the designer. Last year, this iconic Elsa-ism has been reimagined as an embroidery on a gown.

Astrology-inspired designs are another perfect example of what Schiaparelli is lovingly remembered for. Autumn 2016 couture season saw a return to astrological theme. Astrological charts were reinvented with a modern take and edge. Embroideries in silver and gold appeared on black gowns with the extreme, built-up shoulder constructions — another reference to the legendary designer.

Schiaparelli Fall 2016 Couture/Elsa Schiaparelli Zodiac Collection Fall 1938

For his Schiaparelli Autumn 2016 collection, Guyon explored the iconic Schiaparelli’s Summer 1938 circus show. The circus motifs were embroidered in beads and sequins. Circus animals appeared on black tuxedos and a velvet dress, looking fairly glorious.

Elsa Schiaparelli Circus Show Collection Summer 1938/Schiaparelli Fall 2016 Couture

The brand has been continually demonstrating Elsa’s beloved motif — the profile of the face. It has been referenced in Spring 2017 Haute Couture collection, an ivory jacket was embellished with two surrealistic faces with three-dimensional eyelashes. Earlier, the eccentric design was reproduced with a modern touch as the profile of a face bisected by the lapels of a blazer.

Schiaparelli Fall 2016 Couture/ Schiaparelli "Vase with Two Faces" Dress, 1930/ Schiaparelli "Cocteau" Evening Jacket, Fall 1937

Pictures: Vogue, The Culture Concept Circle


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