Elsa Schiaparelli

Elsa Schiaparelli

If there is any fashion designer who deserves to be called a genius and one hundred percent original, it would be none other than the avant garde queen of the fashion industry, Elsa Schiaparelli. Born in 1890 in Rome, she was a true non-conformist by nature; her designs were naturally born to stand out.

Schiaparelli’s legendary career started when she was encouraged by Paul Poiret to start her own business. Despite the favorable reviews she got, the business had to be shutdown in 1926. She experimented with the double Armenian stitch and launched her knitwear collection in early 1927 with trompe l’oiel images which soon became her signature.  Her designs soon made their way on to the French Vogue’s cover. Her sweaters became popular and pretty soon Schiaparelli had to hire a team of workers to cope with the rising demand. This was the start of her own business that gave way to the House of Schiaparelli where she sold her ready-to-wear line.

Her second collection focused on sportswear and was named Pour le sport for which she designed linen dresses, bathing suits and skiwear. She was the first to design the divided skirt in 1931 that Lilli Alvarez flaunted at the Wimbledon. Schiaparelli’s repertoire became complete after the addition of evening wear. Her collaborations with Salvador Dali are worth mentioning for they brought together some of the most unique designs which no designer would dare to experiment with. The three famous masterpieces they created together are the shoe hat, the skeleton and tears dress. Back in the days, Schiaparelli introduced a new color magenta which later came to be known as Schiaparelli pink. The color was introduced on the packaging of her first fragrance, Shocking. The inspiration to choose that particular color came from the Cartier diamond of the same color.

Her contributions to the fashion world are the zippers matching the fabric that she first introduced. She was the first have brooch like buttons on her clothes. Even the catwalks we see today were originally introduced by her when she showcased her first collection on the runway accompanied by art and music. She left France due to the 1939 war and lived in New York for a while where she noticed Christian Dior take over the fashion industry by storm. In 1954, she shutdown her fashion house after returning to France postwar. In the same year, her autobiography came out, Shocking Life in which she had given a detailed account of her life and career. In 1940, her music collection was introduced – Gogo Schiaparelli International Debutante.

In 1940, her Sleeping perfume was launched and sleeping blue became her new signature color. In the same year she won the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award for her bold, daring and contemporary designs.  In 1940, Schiaparelli’s daughter, Gogo got married to Robert L. Berenson and Schiaparelli started living in New York. She joined Marcel Duchamp and Andre Breton for her first exhibition called the First Papers of Surrealism in New York. In the next decade, she introduced a menswear line, her perfumes Le Roy Soleil and Success Fou debuted and foldable sunglasses were introduced. Her shop also opened in Seventh Avenue where her pantsuits were sold. In 1954, she retired quietly from the fashion industry and started living at her home in Tunisia. In the same year, the House of Schiaparelli came to an end too. She died in Paris at the age of 83 in Paris after being in a comatose state for several weeks.


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