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Elsa Schiaparelli in collaboration with Salvador Dalí, Evening gown, 1937  Silk, © Philadelphia Museum of Art

“To be able to work with artists like Bébé Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dalí, Vertès and Van Dongen, with photographers like Honingen-Huene, Horst, Cecil Beaton and Man Ray, was exciting. We felt supported and encouraged, far beyond the material and boring reality of making a dress that sells,” Elsa Schiaparelli noted in 1954. In the world of fashion, Elsa Schiaparelli, born in Rome in 1890 and died in Paris in 1973, is a legend. Her creations, inspired by surrealism, did not spare imagination and used novel materials. The “Schiap” style continued to evolve in the 1930s. Her collections on themes such as circus (summer 1938) and astrology (winter 1938-39) became famous. In 1937 Schiaparelli launched the perfume “Shocking”, named after the shocking pink that had become her trademark.

Now the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris celebrates the bold and exciting, often eccentric creations of the Italian fashion designer, who drew much of her inspiration from her close association with the Parisian avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s. “Shocking! Les mondes surréalistes d’Elsa Schiaparelli” is on view through January 22, 2023, and brings together 577 works, including 212 silhouettes and accessories by Schiaparelli herself, alongside paintings, sculptures, jewellery, perfumes, ceramics, posters, and photographs by friends and contemporaries of the fashion designer such as Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau, Meret Oppenheim, and Elsa Triolet. In addition, the retrospective presents creations designed in honour of Schiaparelli by fashion greats such as Yves Saint Laurent, Azzedine Alaïa, John Galliano and Christian Lacroix. Daniel Roseberry, since 2019 artistic director of the Maison Schiaparelli, which opened in Place Vendôme in 1935, also interprets the founder’s legacy with his own design.

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