With our contributor, Cristina Egger

 “Cézanne started with all the tricks and then he broke the whole thing downand built the real thing. It was hell to do.” Ernest Hemingway

Cristina Egger


 By March of 1932, Elsa Schiaparelli’s reputation was already made: a shape-shifting entrepreneur, she blurred the lines between fashion and art and life and art. A glorious enigma, she was (depending on who you asked) elusive or scandalous, shocking for her freedom, her lack of inhibition, and her apparent inability to care about convention. As her close friend Salvador Dalí said of her, “No one knows how to say Schiaparelli, but everyone knows what it means.” 

Nine years later, for the opening gala of the Ambassadeurs restaurant in Paris, Schiaparelli wore a gown painted by Dunand, with a coq-feathered stole smartly wrapped around her shoulders. It was an homage to the great ballerina Anna Pavlova, who had died that same year, and for whom, with her short black hair and sharp features, Schiaparelli was often mistaken. But if Pavlova was always associated with her iconic performance in “The Dying Swan,” then Schiaparelli was a phoenix, a magical creature whose power lay in her ceaseless ability to reinvent—not only herself, but fashion, too. 

The context of this collection, which honors Elsa’s singular gift for rebirth, is second only to its form. Each piece is clear in its silhouette and its technique: you can see every look’s origins, how each moved from sketch to study to fabric. As well, each look here is meant to elicit some type of emotion, albeit—to paraphrase Hemingway—an emotion that is deeply controlled. Each gown, each bustier, each shoe, every piece of folded velvet feather, or triple organza spike, seeks to catch the eye and hold it. The larger design, too, is meant to arrest but also to some extent mystify, to keep its secrets. 

That larger design is the continuously expanding universe of Maison Schiaparelli. I was told recently that “People don’t buy Schiaparelli, they collect it.” That kind of devotion is inspired only by a unique relationship between client and creation. This is what makes Haute Couture so special: it’s an expression of my vision for the Maison today, one free from marketing and merchandising. But it’s also something else: a way for me to honor that relationship, one of the most intimate ones in the world—the one in which I give women the power to be reborn, again and again and again.

Daniel Roseberry

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