“Shocking! The Surreal World of Elsa Schiaparelli,” the high-impact exhibition opening this week at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, includes pieces that fellow designers – among them Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier, Azzedine Alaïa, and Christian Lacroix – created in homage to the house’s founding genius. For this season’s Schiaparelli haute couture collection, Daniel Roseberry, the house’s artistic director, took this idea of “being in conversation with the people who had been so inspired by her.” Earlier this year Roseberry had an in-person conversation with Lacroix himself, “which was really inspiring,” as Roseberry noted during final fittings on the eve of his show. “We talked about color, we talked about volume. We talked about Arles, and for him it meant black bulls, white horses, and the gold of the sun, which just kept ringing in my ear. It was probably, for him, a passing conversation, but for me it felt like someone plugged me into the wall a little bit, and I wanted to make a collection that brought me back to the kind of fashion that I fell in love with and that period of fashion that feels, in retrospect, very naive in a way.” And so Roseberry evoked the euphoria of Christian Lacroix’s 1987 debut collection with its giddy pouf silhouette, bustles, gigot sleeves, coruscating toreador embroideries, and severe matador hats. For Roseberry, ’80s nostalgia is in the air. But the collection was also informed, as Roseberry confided, “by the way Elsa dressed herself,” which meant rigorous tailoring. That was exemplified by the coatdress worn by Carolyn Murphy with trompe l’oeil drawers for pockets – a detail that Salvador Dalí himself conceived for Schiap and now a piece that will go directly from the runway to the museum exhibition – and what Roseberry described as “this sort of sensual body-conscious and body-obsessed eveningwear, everything built around the bustier and the corset.” Some sprouted with floral displays inspired by Carolyne Roehm’s book A Passion for Flowers, a copy of which sat on Roseberry’s grandmother’s coffee table when he was an impressionable boy. Seen up close these were remarkable triumphs of embroidery – sunflowers and roses and lavender fronds crafted from hand-painted and sequined silk and even leather molded onto the back of spoons to create the petals. They instantly reminded me of Yves Saint Laurent’s spectacular spring-summer 1988 couture show, where jackets became tableau vivants of sunflowers and irises. A simple black velvet evening dress that looked like one of Roseberry’s dramatic fashion sketches come to life was brought into Schiaparelli’s madcap world thanks to a pair of earrings dripping bunches of golden grapes and so heavy that they had to be secured with a discreet tiara hair band. Meanwhile, Stephen Jones’s magnificent wide-brimmed hats bristled with what looked like fields of wheat that on close inspection turned out to have been simulated with glycerinated ostrich feathers. It was all, as Roseberry himself promised, a “mash-up between something that felt incredibly modern and then also wildly romantic.” Hopeful doves of peace (another YSL reference) brought some much-needed optimism to 2022’s disturbing state of things. All of it certainly left the audience on a high.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.