The late Italian designer, Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) was, in a word, unconventional; and fittingly, so was this first presentation designed as a one-off homage by French Couturier, Christian Lacroix.
His Couture career took a turn four years ago and ended at the same venue he was showing during this season’s Fashion Week, The Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Known for designing legendary embroideries and featuring vibrant colors, Lacroix has a solid background in historical costume and clothing. Today, he thrives on producing theatrical and operatic costumes and designing several hotel interiors.
It is quite a task to summarize the life’s work of Schiaparelli, who was once dubbed by lifetime rival, Coco Chanel as, “That Italian artist who makes clothes”, in just one presentation. This is especially the case as Schiaparelli fluctuated from blatant surrealism to a more functional approach to fashion.
The 18 looks displayed on mannequins represented that dichotomy: from dresses with deep pockets, a design that she was the first to implement, to a skirt in crinoline that weighs 40kg. Wearability is obviously not the idea that Lacroix had in mind, but then none of the designs are available for retail as per the House’s prerogative. But above all, the collection made for an observation of mix and match: with elegant showstoppers including a baby pink and black striped dress in duchesse satin with its enormous bow in the back, to a beautiful draped sari-dress in emerald green. Lacroix also produced shocking combinations of bright pink, deep red, and electric blue, fur detailing, and exaggerated proportions. The most striking creation was a coatdress in pink, embellished with typical Lacroix passementerie, which, collectively speaking, made this homage to Schiaparelli a real marriage of the two designers.
Unconventionality appears to be a common thread, whether it is Schiaparelli’s biography, House owner, Diego Della Valle’s operational strategy, or Lacroix’s execution.