Else Schiaparelli – Fashion Designer
Elsa Luisa Maria Schiaparelli was a surrealist and avant-garde Italian fashion designer born in Rome in 1890. After moving to France, Schiaparelli began designing clothes initially for herself and later under her own brand, encouraged by her mentor, fashion designer Paul Poiret.
Schiaparelli trompe l’œil bow sweater 1927
Schiaparelli opened her first business in 1922 and launched a range of sporting attire and knitwear featuring quirky surrealist imagery in 1927. Her famous trompe l’œil bow sweater, received critical acclaim, and set her apart from other designers of the time.
Schiaparelli Swim Suits Vogue 1928
Schiaparelli’s clothing designs were quirky, amusing, and individual. She was the first designer to incorporate a bra into her women’s swimsuits and design padded-shoulder jackets and coats, a style that continues to inspire designers today.
Schiaparelli Wrap Coat with padded shoulders 1933
Her interest in surrealism led to collaborations with famous artists including Elsa Triolet who created the white porcelain ‘Asprin’ necklace made of pill-shaped glass paste beads, metal wire and beige cotton braids.
'Asprin' Necklace - created by Elsa Triolet for Elsa Schiaparelli, 1930
Salvador Dali created wearable art for Shiraparelli including the ‘Stiletto Hat’. Schiaparelli’s ingenious ‘Lobster Dress’ (1937) was worn by Wallis Simpson in Vogue and set the trend for quirky fabric prints.
Wallis Simpson in Schiaparelli's Lobster Dress 1937.
The surrealist influence was continued through Schiaparelli’s successful perfume lines - launching ‘S’ (1929) and ‘Shocking’ (1937) in a bottle resembling the 'Mae West’ torso. Jean-Paul Gautier's 1990s perfume bottles were inspired by Schiaparelli's design. Male fragrances were added to the collection with ‘Snuff’ perfume presented in a Magritte-inspired pipe (1939) and ‘Le Roi Soleil’ packaged by Salvador Dali (1946).
Schiaparelli’s successful perfume 'Shocking' shaped as a female torso 1937.
Schiaparelli was one of the first designers to work with new synthetics fabrics, she designed the wrap dress later recreated by Diana von Furstenberg in the 1970s and made a fashion statement with visible garment closures including zippers and safety pins - making the functional fashionable.
Schiaparelli Shoe Hat inspired by Salvador Dali, 1937
Following the War, Schiaparelli continued to impress with collections including ‘Unfinished Garments’ launched following a couture workers strike (1949) and clothing accessorised with insect designs. After almost 30 years of business, Schiaparelli closed her fashion house in 1954. She passed away in 1973 aged 77.
The House of Schiaparelli reopened in 2012, at 21 Place Vendome in Paris. The brilliance of Else Schiaparelli continues to inspire and influence fashion in the 21st century.