Fall 2013 Haute Couture: Schiaparelli, The Reboot


Elsa Schiaparelli would surely have loved it. For the return of her Maison to the Paris scene — after almost 60 years — couturier extraordinaire Christian Lacroix managed to channel the spirit of Schiaparelli’s playful design and anything-goes choice of color in his “homage” collection, while subtly underlining the many innovations she brought to the world of fashion.

Held in the wood-paneled salons of the Musee Decoratifs — whereLacroix had also presented his final couture collection for his own label in 2009 — the presentation invited visitors to enter Schiaparelli’s world via a cage-like bamboo installation, complete with virtual hummingbirds on mini iPads singing amid silk cherry blossom, thus recalling the fantasy cage-like passageway of Schiaparelli's boutique on Place Vendome that had been created by Jean-Michel Frank in 1935.

Inspired by the carnival fairs often installed in the nearby Tuileries gardens, Lacroix had opted to present 15 of his 18 creations on a carrousel of mirrors, while another three wooden mannequins were placed in a nearby room along with his sketches.

Lacroix had drawn 99 sketches for his homage, which he then synthesized into eighteen silhouettes. Many recalled Schiaparelli’s famed Circus Collection of 1938, while there were also clear Oriental and Russian influences in many designs.

Schiaparelli spokesperson Farida Khelfa commented that Schiaparelli had travelled extensively and was known for wearing Indian saris, something unusual in Paris in the 1930s. Lacroix gave his interpretation of a sari, with “Scarabee,” a long draped dress in acid green chiffon that evokes the sari in its pleats but not silhouette.

Lacroix recalled Schiaparelli’s innovation with the one-piece jumpsuit, here created in black wool crepe with red satin piping and pocket flaps that form a peplum basque, along with her use of many deep pockets on outfits in the early 1940s to make them more functional during the Second World war.

His homage to Schiaparelli’s iconic Lobster dress she had designed with Salvador Dali was subtle, as the crustacean only appeared as a clutch and a hairdo, while he recalled her 1948 monkey fur sweater with goat booties. Lacroix also look into the archives of Maison Lesage for Schiaparelli, and the famed embroidered reproduced some bejewelled belts, including one that had been created by Schiaparelli for the mother of Mr Lesage.

“Schiaparelli was all about the transformation of the body through clothes, she created accentuated shoulders, she used corsets for slimmer silhouettes, and she also had bustles at the back, and here you see it in some of the designs,” explained Camilla Schiavone, CEO of Elsa Schiaparelli.

Schiavone told BLOUIN ARTINFO a creative director will be officially announced in October and refused to comment on rumored names such as Marco Zanini, previously of Versace and Halston, who has been repeatedly mentioned in the fashion press. “We’re not commenting,” she said laughing, adding the new designer’s first collection will be shown next January. Separately, the Maison will continue to invite “creatives” every year for one-off homages to follow in the footsteps of Lacroix, she said. “After all she had worked with Cocteau, Dali,” she noted.

The choice of Lacroix as the re-launch designer was an inspired one as there was always going to be natural synergies between Lacroix's sense of theatricality and Elsa Schiaparelli’s aesthetic and eccentric pairing of colors and use of shocking pink.