Schiaparelli : How her friendship with Dalí led to iconic collaborations and designs

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the print edition of the 2022 spring-summer issue of Luxus+ Mag. Click here to see the full issue.

Born in 1890 in the Italian capital, Elsa Schiaparelli became over the years a legendary and avant-garde fashion designer, famous for her eccentricity and deliberately provocative character. Her creations also bore the surrealist touch of the artists who inspired Schiaparelli, including the well-known Salvador Dalí. A look back at the history of an emblematic collaboration.


103 years earlier, in 1919, Elsa Schiaparelli arrived in Paris, a year in which she had not yet realized her talent for fashion. However, her interest in art began to manifest itself when she befriended Dadaist artists, who rejected convention and questioned the norms of art, literature and other intellectuals.


However, it was not until 1927 that the Italian designer took her first step into fashion. This was a major departure from the other designers of the time, as she was known as one of the first to integrate art into her designs. Her first collection is the embodiment of this desire, consisting of jumpers with large trompe l’oeil bows. They became best-sellers and emblematic pieces of the brand, which propelled it onto the fashion scene. Vogue was quick to call them “masterpieces”.


© Schiaparelli / Pullover trompe l’œil


She became an accomplished designer at the head of a successful fashion house, and it was then that, during the 1930s, she had the ambition to innovate and surprise more and more. One of the encounters that changed the course of her life and the history of her brand forever was with the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí.


The Dalí – Schiaparelli era


The friendship between the artist and the designer led to numerous collaborations. Together they created several fashion pieces that were marked by the casualness and eccentricity that perfectly characterized these two people.


© Salvador Dali


In 1935, their first joint creation, a compact in the shape of a telephone dial, was created. But it was Schiaparelli’s winter 1936-1937 Haute-Couture collection, presented in August 1936, that marked their first official collaboration. The surreal Schiaparelli “Mirror Suit” was born, inspired by the Spanish artist’s painting The Anthropomorphic Cabinet (1936).


© ArtCurial / Trompe l’oeil poudrier created by Dalí and Schiaparelli


This first piece features real or trompe l’oeil pockets in the shape of boxes, and the suit’s buttons are made of drawer handles.


A recurring theme for Dalí and a symbol of his obsession with women, the lobster also inspired the Italian designer and led to the creation of a Lobster Dress in 1937. Another emblematic piece in the work of Schiaparelli and Dalí, it was inspired by the artist’s work Téléphone Homard. Legend has it that Dali wanted to add a little mayonnaise to the fabric, a proposal that the designer refused.


The “Le Cirque” collection, unveiled by the designer in 1938, is an ode to the dialogue she had with surrealist artists, particularly Dalí. From this collection and new collaboration was born the Tears Dress, a white mourning dress with a long veil. It is said to have been inspired by one of the torn dresses from which shreds of fabric seem to hang, worn by a young woman in the painting Three Young Surrealist Women Holding the Skins of an Orchestra in their Arms (1936).


Finally, how can we talk about the many iconic collaborations between Dalí and Schiaparelli without mentioning the Chapeau Chaussure (1937). Presented on the occasion of the Haute-Couture winter 1937-1938 collection, this original and surprising creation was inspired by a photo taken in 1933 by Gala in which the famous artist can be seen wearing a woman’s shoe.


© Schiaparelli


In addition to clothing, Dalí continued to collaborate with Elsa Schiaparelli for many years. He designed fabric patterns or perfume bottles for her, such as the labels for the Shocking Radiance body oils or the Baccarat crystal bottle for her perfume Le Roy Soleil in 1946.


Schiaparelli takes over the Musée des Arts Décoratifs for an exceptional retrospective


From 6 July 2022 to 22 January 2023, a retrospective devoted to the Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli and her iconic fashion creations of a unique and provocative kind will be held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD) in Paris. From her history to her creations, nothing has been left to chance, where the visitor will be able to sail between the marvellous and casual Schiaparelli creations.


© Musée des Arts décoratifs (MAD)


After a tour of the exhibition at 107 rue de Rivoli in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, simply walk up the emblematic street and you will come across the 5-star hotel Le Meurice. This luxury hotel has a restaurant named after the famous Spanish artist and friend of Schiaparelli, with whom the latter collaborated on many occasions : Salvador Dalí.


The Dalí, a unique and elegant place, offers a rich choice of French gastronomic dishes, which you can enjoy while immersed in a world inspired by the artist himself.





Featured photo : © Schiaparelli

Grâce à une veille accrue et à une excellente connaissance de ces secteurs, la rédaction de Luxus Magazin décrypte pour ses lecteurs les principaux enjeux économiques et technologiques de la mode, l’horlogerie, la joaillerie, la gastronomie, les parfums et cosmétiques, l’hôtellerie, et l’immobilier de prestige.


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