Elsa Schiaparelli

It all began in 1927 with a homemade sweater. Elsa Schiaparelli had knitted it to look particularly chic as a spectator at a fashion show. The special thing about it: she had designed... Read more
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Interesting Facts

It all began in 1927 with a homemade sweater. Elsa Schiaparelli had knitted it to look particularly chic as a spectator at a fashion show. The special thing about it: she had designed the pattern herself, black with a knitted-in white trompe l'oeil bow at the collar and white cuffs as waistbands. The sweater was a hit: first of all, she caused a sensation with it at the fashion show instead of the models presented; and secondly, she used it to create the prototype of a best-seller and thus the foundation stone of her future career as a world-famous designer.

Elsa Schiaparelli was born in Rome in 1890 into a wealthy Italian family of aristocrats and intellectuals. On the one hand, both the architecture of Rome, the city of her birth, and on the other hand, literature and astronomy, which played a major role in her family, were to have an influence on her later fashion. But Elsa Schiaparelli saw designing clothes not as a profession but as an art.

Freed from the constraints of her conservative family and an unhappy marriage, she literally absorbed the art movements, especially Surrealism and Dadaism, in Paris between the world wars and incorporated them into her designs. She collaborated with many of her artist friends such as Dali, Picasso and Cocteau and sought to shock, entertain and amuse the public with the help of her fashion. And she succeeded with great success. Compared to Elsa Schiaparelli's creations, the fashion of her biggest competitor of the time, Coco Chanel, was downright stuffy.

With so much eclectic creativity, it was inevitable that she would repeatedly emerge as a pioneer on the fashion scene: she was the first to make zippers socially acceptable in haute couture, was the first to license sunglasses, was the first to superimpose a theme on her individual collections, and gave her fashion house its own color, her legendary 'Shocking Pink' - anyone can do black.

Of course, perfume could not be missing from this extensive creative power. Just one year after founding her fashion house, Elsa Schiaparelli launched her first perfume, which she unceremoniously named after what she believed to be the lucky first letter of her last name: "S". The success proved her right. Over the next few years, she released an average of two perfumes a year until 1937, when she launched her most famous fragrance to date: "Shocking", in a bottle representing Mae West's dressmaker's dummy, which Elsa Schiaparelli used to tailor her costumes for the film 'Everyday's a holiday'.

More perfumes followed, always in typically surreal playful bottles, such as 'Sleeping', 'Snuff' or 'Zut', whose bottle was meant to represent the legs and fallen skirt of the Mistinguett. Even after Elsa Schiaparelli closed her haute couture house in 1954, as her extravagant fashions were no longer in keeping with the spirit of the times, 'Parfums Schiaparelli' continued.

Elsa Schiaparelli died in 1973, 83 years old in her sleep. But her work remained unforgettable. In 2012, her fashion house was revived and since 2017, Schiaparelli is again one of the few official members of the 'Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode'. Thus, there is again the possibility to see the spirit of this woman, who combined art, intellect and fashion with a lot of humor like no other, reflected in contemporary creations.
Research and text by BirdeeBirdee