_Maison Schiaparelli features once again among the major players of Parisian Haute Couture

  • The Avant-garde, arty and rebel spirit of Madame Elsa Schiaparelli, the Italian inventor of famous Shocking Pink and main serious competitor of French Coco Chanel, is still alive. Indeed, since 2019, as the new and proud Creative Director (for all collections, projects and for the image), the talented young American Fashion Designer Daniel Roseberry is doing his best to celebrate it every season and to pay tribute to Elsa’s priceless heritage. Taking over from Hubert de Givenchy (1947-1951) and from the founder herself, it’s quite difficult and challenging. But the fact is that he has already proved to live up to expectations. His creativity is prolific and extravagant, in the good way. As used to be the one of Elsa who has been one of the leading Fashion Designers of the mid-20th century. Opened in 1927 then Closed in 1954. Reopened in 2012, the French Maison, located at the Parisian Hôtel de Fontpertuis, 21 place Vendôme, has been awarded with the official Haute Couture label by the French Ministry of Industry and the French Couture Federation in 2017. Property of Italian Entrepreneur and owner of the Tod’s Group, Diego Della Valle, it has risen once again with glory after 58 years consigned to oblivion. Elsa would be so grateful. She would surely have approved the Roseberry’s third millennium revisitation of her heritage. The way the young Texan, cherishes and celebrates it. She would have surely loved to dress Miss Lady Gaga in occasion of the Inauguration of 46th USA’s President Joe Biden in January 2021. 

  • photo credits: Kuba Dabrowski

    photo credits: Kuba Dabrowski

  • Life can often be like a challenging roller coaster, even if you were born in a wealthy family. Indeed, as we all know, not all that glitters is gold. Elsa Schiaparelli has lived it on her skin. She was born in 1890 in Roman Palazzo Corsini owned by her aristocratic and intellectual family. Her father, Celestino, was the director of the Lincei library and a professor of Oriental literature. Her mother, Maria-Luisa, descended from the famous Florentine Medici family. Her grandfather was an astronomer. As a rebel child, she felt very soon like a fish out of the water in her own house. Her dream was to be an actress. She studied philosophy. In her twenties, she already showed her family she had a strong temper, which will allow her to achieve great things and stand out of the crowd. In 1911, she took the bold decision to publish Arethusa, a collection of sensual poems. She was immediately sent into a Swiss convent for punishment.

  • But she didn’t give up and went on a hunger strike until she was released. In 1913, she moved to London and worked as a governess for the children of a couple of her sister’s friends. She started to enjoy her freedom as an emancipated young woman far away from her strict parents. But very soon, her life changed again as she felt under the charm of Count Wilhelm Wendt de Kerlor, a young theosophist. They got married in 1914 and moved to New-York in 1916. In 1920, they welcomed their daughter Yvonne. Gogo- the sweet nicknamed of Yvonne- was soon diagnosed with poliomyelitis. For a few years, the De Kerlor, as they were known in the city, had a comfortable bohemian lifestyle thanks to Elsa’s Dowry; but once the latter was finished, things got very complicated. Unhappy wife, always alone and worried mother, Elsa took the decision to move back to Paris in 1922 to find a cure for Gogo whose health was going worse. She then asked for divorce. With no money, she started to struggle and experience poverty as a single mother. But she didn’t give up: She had to survive without asking help. She decided to reinvent herself from scratch. She found a job in an Antique Dealer’s. And she started over. Gradually. As she became an ’habituée’ at the restaurant Le Boeuf sur le toit, she quickly made influent friends. She was very good at this. A few years before, on the boat to NYC with her husband, she met Gabriële Buffet- Picabia, wife of Francis Picabia, the French-born painter, poet and leading figure of the Dada movement. The latter introduced her to Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp.

  • photo credits: Schiaparelli

    photo credits: Schiaparelli

  • Elsa was an Art lover and as such, she loved to be surrounded by talented Artists and creators. During her creative life, she collaborated with the best: Elsa Triolet, Jean Dunand, Alberto Giacometti, Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, Meret Oppenheim, Jean Schlumberger, Jean Clément, Lina Baretti, Jean-Michel Frank, Roger Vivier, Marcel Vertès, Lesage, Raymond Peynet. Art- especially Surrealism- quickly became an inexorable source of inspiration for her unexpected incoming career in the Fashion Industry. Fashion, the one and only one real path, she discovered, by chance, thanks to the Legendary French First Fashion Designer ever, Paul Poiret. They met in his Parisian atelier as she accompanied a friend for a fitting. As she tried on a few designs while she was waiting, he immediately realized this atypical woman had a unique eye for fashion and moreover, that she had a great future into it. He realized she could be an interesting testimonial and allow her to borrow several clothes. Paul Poiret was not only the greatest couturier at that time, but he also had a great intuition to detect talent. Elsa was talented. He knew it at the first sight. She soon started to work as a freelance fashion designer and was so lucky that her avant-garde hand-knit pullover with a black and white trompe- l’oeil motif was immediately deemed a “masterpiece” by American Vogue and, within a few months, the United States made it a star product.

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  • In 1927, she founded her own company in her tiny apartment. Only one year later, as the business was growing fast, “Schiaparelli-Pour le Sport” – including an atelier, a salon and the offices- moved to 4, rue de la Paix. Her style was a blend of Haute Couture and Sportwear: Knitwear pieces, swimsuits, beach pyjamas and accessories then, suits, day and evening dresses and the first coat-shirt. Thanks to her prolific creativity, she was always innovating. When the second worldwide war started, she wanted her designs to be adapted to air raids, so she created practical and comfortable clothings: zippered jumpsuits with maxi pockets intended to hold the equivalent of a handbag, a coat with an integrated bag, transformable dresses, etc. She was always one step ahead. She didn’t be content with being an acclaimed Fashion Designer; she wanted to become a female role model. She designed for women with a strong and independent personality like her. Women who stand out of the crowd. Ambitious Working Women, proud of being successful. She wanted to be a change maker. As a feminist activist herself, she wanted to show women the way towards the emancipation and the freedom, she already has won. Not a surprise then, if she became the first female fashion designer to be featured on the cover of the American magazine Time in 1934. Lots of Hollywood’s Celebrities and aristocrats started to wear Schiaparelli: the future Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall, Gene Tierney, Gala Dali, Marchesa Casati, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Daisy Fellowes, Nusch Eluard, Arletty, Vivien Leigh, Ginger Rogers, Juliette Gréco, Mae West.  In 1935, Elsa was at the head of a little empire based at the Hôtel de Fontpertuis, in 21, place Vendôme: five floors, 98 rooms, a ground-floor store and over 400 employees. She was a renowned powerful female entrepreneur and she used it. She gave a series of conferences across the United States in 1940 on the theme of “Clothes and the Woman”. For one of them, her audience totalled 36,000. In Dallas, she was the first European to receive the Neiman Marcus award for services to fashion. But unfortunately, she was stopped for a while. As her status as an Italian in Paris was becoming risky, she had to put her Couture House into the hands of her right-hand man from May 1941 to July 1945. For sure, it was not an easy decision to make but it had to be done. And she did it. For the salvation of her company and for her employees. From 1947 to 1951, young Hubert de Givenchy worked as the creative director of the Schiaparelli boutique. A few years later, in 1954, out of the blue, she shocked the Fashion world with her decision to close the Maison. Despite her many successes (an increasing number of licences- the first line of designer sunglasses- in the United States and good sales for her perfumes), at the age of 64, she had changed as the world of Haute Couture had changed. She had lost her passion. It was the right time to devote herself to write her autobiography Shocking Life.

  • photo credits: Schiaparelli

    photo credits: Schiaparelli

  • photo credits: Kuba Dabrowski

    photo credits: Kuba Dabrowski

  • Elsa Schiaparelli probably hasn’t been well understood by many. Because extravagance often disturbs. Standing out of crowd is not always easy. It’s bold. Especially if you are a woman. The 1949’s cover of Newsweek whose title was ‘Schiaparelli, the Shocker’ was well found. Elsa has spent her life shocking. She has invented one-of-a-kind Shocking Pink, a pure, vibrant, undiluted, intense and lively pigment. She was the first to give her collections a theme: the “typhoon” look, the “parachute” look, “Stop, Look & Listen”, “Le Cirque” (circus), “Commedia dell’Arte”, “Païenne” (pagan), “Zodiac”, etc. She will ever be remembered for her avant-garde and rebel spirit. She never married again and had no other kids. Her daughter Yvonne had two daughters, famous model and actress Marisa Berenson and Berenthia (Berry). Elsa passed away on the 13th of November in 1973. The reopening of her Maison in 2012 thanks to new owner, Italian entrepreneur Diego della Valle and the nomination, in 2019, of Young American Daniel Roseberry as Creative Director, are a pure blessing for her memories. Her dusted off heritage is an invitation for the future generations and especially for the young women to believe in their dreams and to let their passions guide them. Elsa firstly was a passionate woman. 

    By Helene Battaglia

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