With the staging of its first Haute Couture show since 1954 in Paris on Monday, marking the much anticipated debut of its freshly appointed creative director Marco Zanini, as well as a major Christie’s sale of Elsa Schiaparelli’s personal collection set for January 23, the house of Schiaparelli is enjoying its moment in the sun.
Deconstructed veils, leather sandals fringed with crocodile feathers, glass ivy leaf bracelets and flamboyant sculptural hats figured among the accessories, while looks ranged from a slouchy, deconstructed tuxedo to a languid dove-gray gown with side knots and richly embroidered dresses reminiscent of Schiaparelli’s Lesage designs.
Ruffles were a leitmotif, gathering in peplum panels at the hips of shirts, forming voluminous flamenco-scented sleeves on jackets, or gently erupting across a mint green ruffled skirt in silk cigaline. Hand-painted prints were also key, including Les Garçons du Jardin’s Tulips with boy’s heads turned into blossoms, La Pluie de Paris’ irregular polka dots, and Le Ciel Etoilé’s graphic stars, with among the standouts a ruched floral kimono-inspired dress in yellow silk crepe in the vein of Schiaparelli’s own exotic wardrobe finds picked up on her travels. While iridescent ivy leaves on a brocade suit were reminiscent of her famous 1938 “Pagan” collection.
The models' colored coiffs added to the show’s eccentric mood, from Stella Tennant’s grungy electric blue locks to an oversized red afro on a model whose caftan, worked in fine metallic colored stripes, lent a disco edge. Rich in craftsmanship, the show’s panoply of textile innovations included Sabrag, or hand-cut velvet, whipped-plate embroidery, and silver-electrofused silk charmeuse.
Opening a compelling new chapter for the long-dormant house while avoiding plunging too literally into its codes (there wasn't a lobster in sight), Zanini in this stellar, eclectic collection captured the house founder’s elegant-eccentric sense of style while infusing his own edgy, retro-chic spirit, though the styling encroached a little too strongly on John Galliano territory.
-- Katya Foreman