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The Surrealist Worlds of Elsa Schiaparelli 

Paris Museum of Decorative Arts - Until January 22, 2023


                                   Shocking Schiap! 

Feminist, business, marketing and network woman, influencer....

In a word avant-garde,

Elsa Schiaparelli will multiply the "collabs" with the intelligentsia of her time!

In 1922, Elsa the Italian is 32 years old and puts her suitcases in Paris leaving in New York a very chic, very handsome, but very fickle husband. She takes with her her adored granddaughter whom she nicknames "Gogo" and who will become the mother of Marisa Berenson, actress, model and muse of the 70s/80s. , an intellectual and scientific father and an aristocratic mother, Elsa has solid references and a very good education which lead her directly to Paul Poiret, the mentor. The latter, who hates Coco Chanel, "the one who makes women look like undernourished telegraphists, without breasts and without rumps..." to be precipitated in the fall by the bankruptcy of his Haute Couture house, consequence of his delusions of grandeur.

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Gogo Elsa Schiaparelli daughter
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 Elsa Schiaparelli  
 Marisa Berenson

Elsa thrives in this festive, cosmopolitan and inventive Paris of the Roaring Twenties.

She is still young and if she does not have beauty as an asset, she has spirit and a network. But what will push this woman of the world to work? A desire for emancipation? It's unlikely, but certainly an irresistible desire to shake things up, its scent will be “Shocking” and its color a firecracker pink-violet called “shocking rose”! And also to express her originality, her vitality and her creative soul for her who doesn't even know how to sew.

In Poiret, who liked to surround himself with artists, she borrows Raoul Duffy but times have changed and her most beautiful collaborations will be with Jean Cocteau, Christian Bérard, Marcel Vertés, Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, Alberto Giacometti, Jean-Michel Frank…. and a young painter who electrifies all of Paris, Salvator Dali.

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shoking pink cape and roy soleil embroidery
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dresses with drawings made by Jean Cocteau
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claw gloves
Perfume Shocking! realised and painting, made by Leonor Fini

In the years 1925/30, Dali developed his “paranoiac-critical” method inspired by Freud and his theory on psychoanalysis. It is a question of freely appealing to one's thoughts, dreams and delusions, then to self-analyze the haunting images that inhabit the mind and arise from consciousness. Enough to seduce the whimsical Elsa! Dali is crazy! It's "surrrrrealistic!»

Their complicity will be fertile ground for multiple creations from 1936 to 1939.

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hat shoe
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trompe l'oeil patterned dress, tears
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lobster dress
apron dress in rhodophane 1935

By browsing this magnificent retrospective of the MAD, under the curatorship of Marie-Sophie Carron de la Carrière and a scenography by Nathalie Crinière, on  can conclude that thanks to her talent and her brilliant intuitions, she determined fashion for future generations. 1927, the first collection, small sweaters with trompe l'oeil knot patterns refer to Sonia Rykiel, the skeleton dress or the raffia suit to Mugler, the drawer suits to Jean-Paul Gaultier, the butterflies to Alaia and even John Galliano him paid homage with the newspaper clippings print that refers to the 1935 “Stop, Look & Listen” collection. These multiple and abundant references are very well represented in the exhibition.

collection, stop, look and listen 1935
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Elsa Schiaparelli butterfly dress
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little sweaters with trompe l'oeil patterns, 1927
John Galliano collection
Alaïa butterfly dresses
contemporary creations and portraits of Elsa Schiaparelli 

On the "suppliers" side, she also surrounds herself with masters and avant-gardes, Jean Dunand, Jean Schlumberger, Albert Lesage for embroidery, Alberto Giacometti for jewelry and for the decoration of her new fashion house 21, Place Vendôme: Jean-Michel Frank.

Business woman, she has declined a whole range of beauty products, perfumes but also powders, make-up, oils... It is still Jean-Michel Frank who will have this brilliant idea to create a huge presentation cage in golden bamboo in the entrance to his shop.

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Buttons and Brooches, Alberto Giacometti
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Decor at 21, place Vendôme, Alberto Giacometti and Jean-Michel Frank
La cage à Oiseaux, perfume cage in the entrance of the shop, at 21 place Vendôme
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Salut! perfume, Jean-Michel Frank bottle

Then comes to mind this advertising clip (1991), directed by Jean-Paul Goude: Vanessa Paradis adorned with rooster feathers whistling a heady tune for Coco de Chanel in a birdcage… here again the Schiaparelli influence is obvious .

Today, the Schiaparelli couture house has returned to its mythical address at 21 Place Vendôme and a designer up to the task at hand, Daniel Roseberry. With his singular talent, the latter made it a standard for France during the inauguration of American President Jo Biden, by dressing Lady Gaga! Paul Poiret would have said “by dressing the era” The circle is complete, the master can be proud of the heritage.

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The signs of the Zodiac, the circus, the mixed ones of yesterday and today
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Lady Gaga dress, daniel roseberry for Schiparelli

Shocking! The Surrealist Worlds of Elsa Schiaparelli -

Paris Museum of Decorative Arts

Until January 22, 2023

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