Elsa Schiaparelli Shocking expo in Paris. Story by Eleonora de Gray, Editor-in-Chief of RUNWAY MAGAZINE. Photos Courtesy: Les Arts Décoratifs / Christophe Dellière / GettyImages / Rabbani and Solimene Photography / Schiaparelli / Valérie Belin / Philadelphia Museum of Art / Paris Musées, Palais Galliera / Grand Palais / image ville de Paris / Runway Magazine.
“Being able to work with artists such as Bébé Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dalí, Vertès and Van Dongen, with photographers like Honingen-Huene, Horst, Cecil Beaton and Man Ray was thrilling. We felt helped, encouraged, way beyond the material and dull reality of the making of a dress to sell”. Shocking life, Elsa Schiaparelli – 1954
From July 6, 2022, to January 22, 2023, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris celebrates the bold and exciting creations of Italian French Haute Couture designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who drew much of her inspiration from her close ties to the Parisian avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s.
This is a special revisit this extraordinary designer’s work, her innovative sense of feminine style, her sophisticated, often eccentric designs, and the thrill that she brought to the world of fashion. This exposition became possible by the grace of patron Marina Kellen-French, who devited her life to support the arts and fashion. The influential American donor cultivates a special link with France, where she contributes to the financing of several cultural establishments and events.
Shocking! The surreal world of Elsa Schiaparelli brings together 520 works including 272 silhouettes and accessories by Schiaparelli herself, displayed alongside iconic paintings, sculptures, jewelry, perfumes, ceramics, posters, and photographs by the likes of Schiaparelli’s dear friends and contemporaries: Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau, Meret Oppenheim and Elsa Triolet.
The retrospective also showcases creations designed in honor of Schiaparelli by fashion icons including Yves Saint Laurent, Azzedine Alaïa, John Galliano and Christian Lacroix.
Daniel Roseberry, artistic director of the House Schiaparelli since 2019, also presents his designs, interpretations of the Elsa Schiaparelli, as a start of new life of this fashion house. Even though 9 months ago Daniel Roseberry didn’t know how to spell the name of Schiaparelli, after 2 years working in it, even though his designs so often look like designs of Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano and Thierry Mugler, he has 2 galleries to present his “interpretations”.
The poetic and immersive scenography of Shocking! The surreal world of Elsa Schiaparelli has been entrusted to Nathalie Crinière. The exhibition presented in the Christine & Stephen A. Schwarzman fashion galleries of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
Who was Elsa Schiaparelli
Poetic, refine aristocrat Elsa Schiaparelli established the Schiaparelli Fashion House from the 1930s to the 1950s on Place Vendôme in Paris. Willfully provocative and considered avant-garde, she was famous for her use of surrealism in her work, garish colors like her “Shocking Rose” (“Shocking pink” is a color name pioneered for a shade of fuchsia by Elsa Schiaparelli in 1937.)
Elsa Schiaparelli was born in Rome, in Palazzo Corsini, into a family of academics. Her father Celestino Schiaparelli was an orientalist, her uncle Giovanni Schiaparelli was an astronomer and one of the promoters of the Martian channel theory, he was the first to map this planet. Her mother was a descendant of the Medici.
Her family, the massive knowledge and spiritual heritage became the source of Elsa Schiaparelli designs. She studied philosophy, married theosophist Wilhelm de Wendt de Kerlor. It was in 1927 that she began to think about fashion after visiting Paul Poiret. She started with creating the sweaters with large trompe-l’oeil knots which had an absolute success.
Schiaparelli’s design career was early on influenced by couturier Paul Poiret, who was renowned for jettisoning corseted, over-long dresses and promoting styles that enabled freedom of movement for the modern, elegant and sophisticated woman. In later life, Schiaparelli referred to Poiret as “a generous mentor, dear friend.”
Elsa Schiaparelli had no training in the technical skills of pattern making and clothing construction. Her method of approach relied on both impulse of the moment and the serendipitous inspiration as the work progressed. She draped fabric directly on the body, sometimes using herself as the model.
Elsa Schiaparelli introduces an artistic dimension into the clothing aesthetic of the time, assuming eccentricity, which puts the functional dimension of clothing in the background.
From 1936 Elsa Schiaparelli started her friendship with Salvador Dalí, which became an essential and very powerful creative exchange.
The most avant-garde fantasies of Elsa Schiaparelli were realized by Maison Lesage, a French couture embroidery house. In the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles, Albert and Marie-Louise Lesage expanded their catalog with avant-garde motifs which were sought by a clientele for whom fashion was nurtured by art.
Elsa Schiaparelli became a faithful customer and began ordering embroideries inspired by the circus, astrological signs and the marine world in 1936. A bolero (“Chevaux Savants” with rearing embroidered horses, from the summer 1938 collection), a cape embroidered with sun rays, and gilt sequins from the following winter highlight the collaboration between the designer and the craftsman. Elsa Schiaparelli gave Lesage all her embroidery work until she closed her business in 1954.
Albert Lesage found exceptional materials: Murano glass for small flowers and imitation semi-precious stones, such as lapis lazuli, jade, turquoise rocks with black webbed patterns, artificial stones, pebbles and cabochons. He crushed gelatin sequins to give them the appearance of hammered coins, combined chenille and mink, and used metal blades and fish scales.
In 1940 when the war broke out Elsa Schiaparelli went into exile in the United States. The Schiaparelli house survived during the years of conflict. Elsa Schiaparelli returns to France after liberation and resumes her work. She hired a young designer, Hubert de Givenchy, a future great couturier. But revolutionary new looks of Christian Dior, new way of fashion left Schiaparelli house almost rejected by public.
The house of Schiaparelli struggled in the austerity of the post-war period. Schiaparelli discontinued her couture business in 1951, and finally closed down the heavily indebted fashion house in December 1954.
Elsa Schiaparelli – designer who inspired two centuries
Elsa Schiaparelli became an inspiration for the many designers of XXth and XXIst centuries. Jean Paul Gaultier, Thom Browne, Jeremy Schott inspired by her avant-garde creative work.
The Lobster dress became an inspiration for Thom Browne. 1937 Lobster dress was a simple white silk evening dress with a crimson waistband featuring a large lobster painted (by Dalí) onto the skirt. From 1934, Dalí had started incorporating lobsters into his work, including New York Dream-Man Finds Lobster in Place of Phone shown in the magazine American Weekly in 1935, and the mixed-media Lobster Telephone (1936). His design for Schiaparelli was interpreted into a fabric print by the leading silk designer Sache.
Another Elsa Schiaparelli’s “Butterfly” became an inspiration for Jean Paul Gaultier.
Schiaparelli Couture House 21st century
In 2006 Italian businessman Diego Della Valle, the founder of Tod’s, purchased the company, and reopened Schiaparelli House on Place Vendôme.
Marco Zanini was appointed as a creative director in September 2013 and showed first collection to the public. The house has been returned to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture list of members, and presented its first show in January 2014.
In 2015 Bertrand Guyon took the place of creative director of the house, and he recreated the looks from the archives until 2019.
In 2019 place of creative director of Schiaparelli took Texan Daniel Roseberry.
The first exposition “Shocking!” was presented at Philadelphia Museum of Art, and this year the Musée des Arts Décoratifs took it on new “cultural dimension” by adding 2 galleries dedicated to the work of Daniel Roseberry.
The choice of this designer from the very start received a certain opinion and a doubt from the experts and public. From 2019 until 2022 activities of Daniel Roseberry under name of Schiaparelli are indeed “Shocking!”
After spending 2 years at Schiaparelli House Daniel Roseberry didn’t learn how to actually spell the name. In October 2021 he painted tablecloth with name Schiaparelli with one “L” for the private dinner organized by Bergdorf Goodman dedicated to the new Schiaparelli department opening.
Daniel Roseberry confuses 2 different things “inspiration” and “plagiarism” or “copy”. For him everything is an “interpretation”. Although in fashion design these are 2 completely different things. And inspiration considered as a honor or gesture from one designer or artist to another, although plagiarism is not just unfair, it is not appreciated by clients, and simply illegal.
Copy is a similar or identical version of thing, reproduction. Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.
How organizers of this exhibition could miss that and gave 2 galleries at Elsa Schiaparelli exhibition to the designer who’s only good at reproducing work of others?
Is this how Schiaparelli House presented today? And that’s how this exposition ends, with two galleries of this kind of “interpretations”? SHOCKING! Pages of the interview with this designer are also SHOKING!
Daniel Roseberry in his interview added “At the beginning of my time here at Schiaparelli I really didn’t focus on her work…” He still doesn’t, and never will be, as he wants to show his “personality”, according to the interview. He’s just making his resume.
But apparently it doesn’t bother the organizers of this exhibition. And there’s a probably no point to add the real muses of Daniel Roseberry to the ones displayed at the museum…
And with Daniel Roseberry everything is happening now not at the Haute Couture House Schiaparelli but at the “Hotel Scheap”, pronouncing like “Cheap” or “Skip” (as if like this is better).
So that is how Shocking life of Elsa Schiaparelli continues, and that is how this exhibition ends…
Eleonora de Gray, Editor-in-Chief of RUNWAY MAGAZINE