Farida Khelfa on Schiaparelli, Exclusive Video
“Elsa is born and grows up in the salons of Palazzo Corsini, in Rome. Brought up in an aristocratic milieu by a mother descended from the Medici family, and a father who is a professor of Arab literature, she is surrounded by uncles who are in turn, astronomer, paleographer, archeologist…” Just a few words out of Schiaparelli’s biography are enough to understand what an incredibly free spirited and avant-gardiste she was.
Last year, the retrospective on her work at MoMa for “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” was a remarkable re-introduction to the most intellectual and talented artist of her era. This year marks the relaunch of the brand, an initiative of Diego Della Valle (President and CEO of the Tod’s group).
In January 1927, Schiaparelli launched her knitwear line, a reflection on metallic threads with trompe l’œil motifs. Vogue Paris published an article titled The elegance of the handmade pullover; on December 15th, Vogue US presented the entire collection as Works of Art. With the support of designer Paul Poiret and the Parisian art scene, Schiaparelli’s reputation was launched. She would forever be the extravagant wild child of fashion. She invented the supported bra swimsuit and she sported the pant-skirt on the streets of London in 1931. Her famous shapes include capes falling straight from the shoulders forming right angles, bird hats, jackets with wings, lobster dresses, and an array of whimsical, intellectualized forms of pure creativity applied to the art of fashion. Schiaparelli more than any other designer, was an artist. Coco Chanel, her rival, dismissed her as, “That Italian artist who makes clothes”. Her collaborations go from embroideries with Lesage, and accessories with Jean Clément, Jean Schlumberger, to Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, Alberto Giacometti, and Christian Bérard. Some of the photographers she worked with are now studied all over the world; names like Baron Adolphe de Meyer, Man Ray, as well as Horst, Cecil Beaton, and the young Richard Avedon, who she discovered during the years between the war.
Such a rich legacy is an incredibly precious thing to manage, “The idea with Schiaparelli is to propose the brand with all its modernity, and represent dreams, art and all the most sophisticated things we can do,” Della Valle told WWD. “This brand doesn’t have to get involved in the frenetic world of numbers, accounts, and dimensions, but it just has to express itself at its best. The heart of this project will be the Parisian Maison in Place Vendôme, in the original location where the first atelier was.”
Della Valle’s second announcement was the appointment of actress Farida Khelfa, muse to Azzedine Alaïa and Jean Paul Gaultier during the eighties and the first Arab supermodel as the House’s Ambassador.
I was invited for an exclusive tour of the iconic Place Vendôme atelier, a magical place newly decorated with art, items from the Yves Saint Laurent auction, and surrealistic pieces from interior decorator Vincent Darré by one of the most elegant Parisiennes.