For fashion people, Elsa Schiaparelli, the designer credited with what we know to be couture, is one of the most influential, period. “I think Schiaparelli was much more inventive than Chanel — there were many more silhouettes,” Dilys Blum, senior curator of costumes and textiles at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said of the designer, who was best known for her collaboration with Surrealists, especially Salvador Dali. The pair’s lobster print dress was worn by Wallis Simpson, the future Duchess of Windsor, which, with its sheer paneling and the barnacle reaching toward her nether regions was considered quite scandalous at the time. Now, the artist and the designer are together once again, with their friendship and shared admiration currently on display at the Dali Museum in Saint Petersburg, Florida.
The exhibition pays tribute to a place where both designers spent a part of their lives, and comes at a very special time for the Schiaparelli label; in January, it was awarded the official Haute Couture label by the French Ministry of Industry and the French Couture Federation, and, as a representative for Schiaparelli Paris tells Refinery29: “The House of Schiaparelli is having its 90th anniversary this year; this exhibition felt to be the right platform to celebrate the unique bond between fashion and art that Elsa Schiaparelli pioneered. Her relationship with Salvador Dalí — as a friend and as a collaborator — paved the way to iconic creations for both of them. They inspired each other and pushed boundaries in so many forms of expression: garments, hats, jewellery, accessories, paintings, prints, fragrances, etc. Regardless of their 'job titles' (a fashion designer and an artist), their origins, their gender, or their nationalities, they let their creative minds explore without limitations.”
The Dali Museum, according to its chief operating officer, Kathy Grief, has been in the works for at least five years, but it two took two years to create this exhibit specifically, “in terms of solidifying the vision for it, collaborating with our partners at Schiaparelli Paris and securing key loans from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Met and private collectors.” And as Schiaparelli Paris' creative director Bertrand Guyon says: “Seeing [the pieces] close up allows for a certain appreciation of details. It helped me to get inspired in a modern way.”
If you can’t make it to Saint Petersburg before the exhibit closes on January 14, 2018, click on for a virtual walk-through.
Disclosure: Travel and expenses for the author were provided by Schiaparelli Paris for the purpose of writing this story.