No discussion of designer Elsa Schiaparelli is complete without mention of her collaboration with Salvador Dalí. After all, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you read her name just now? Perhaps her iconic Shoe Hat? Her lobster-print gown? Or maybe it’s the skirt suit with drawer-like pockets, complete with “knob” hardware? Those were all done with Dalí.
But while theirs was arguably her most famous symbiotic relationship, it certainly wasn’t the only one. Schiaparelli partnered with a Who’s Who of creatives from the early 20th Century, from Andy Warhol to Alberto Giacometti, Jean Cocteau to Cecil Beaton, René Magritte to Meret Oppenheim. “The arts during this period were nurtured by shared friendships, social connections, and a common desire to break with tradition and push the boundaries of the status quo,” writes Dilys Blum, senior curator of costume and textiles at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in a new book that details all of Schiaparelli’s fruitful collaborations — 21 in all. And in keeping with the spirit of great minds coming together, Schiaparelli and the Artists (Rizzoli) enlists its own roster of creative luminaries as contributors. Designer Christian Lacroix writes about her works with Raoul Dufy, for instance; journalist Suzy Menkes, about those with Oppenheim; photographer Jean-Paul Goude, about her images with Man Ray, and so on. The chapter on her perfume ads with Marcel Vertès, seen here, comes courtesy of (Tory Daily favorite) David Downton. “It was the perfect fit. The bottle was based on the curvaceous torso of Mae West, whom Schiaparelli had dressed the same year for the film Every Day’s a Holiday, and Vertès’s piquant imagination saw it marooned in a row boat with a love-hungry sailor, tucked into a boulevardier’s top coat, and being ridden by a jockey wearing polka dots in Elsa’s signature pink,” writes Downton of the two, who would continue working together long after the war. “Shortly before the House of Schiaparelli closed its doors in 1954, he presented Elsa with a large collage, incorporating many of the house codes (butterflies, eyes, lips, the Vendôme column). It still hangs in the company’s headquarters at 21 place Vendôme today.”