Oscar Wilde famously said: “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.” In the case of Elsa Schiaparelli, you might argue she did both.
Bertrand Guyon’s fall couture collection was inspired by the house’s founder, an aristocratic-born Italian who developed close ties with artists like Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau. In the Thirties and Forties, Schiaparelli became a society figure in parallel to developing her unique Surrealism-tinged esthetic.
Guyon honed in on her love of nature with his hothouse collection, which found a natural habitat at the Paris opera house, where Schiaparelli was showing for the first time after three seasons of hosting shows at its couture salons on nearby Place Vendôme.
For day, the designer offered draped dresses and fitted jackets, including a black one with spectacular gold-and-agate rocaille embroidery that rivaled the gilded surroundings. But the display really took flight with the evening wear: the butterfly, the Surrealist symbol for change and a signature of the house, was a recurring motif.
Rendered in black lace, the insect alighted on a puff-sleeved nude tulle ballgown, and morphed into a mask atop a sweeping silk moiré opera coat in the brand’s trademark shocking pink – one of several ornate headpieces that lent the display a hallucinatory edge.
A leopard face sprouting golden wings topped a leopard-printed pony hair jacket with bulging 3-D pockets, while a cashmere intarsia coat in a colorful menagerie motif was paired with a gilded bunny mask. They were not without danger – a model wearing a dog head made of feathers took a tumble during the show finale.
A safer bet might be the sweeping ivory silk kaftan emblazoned with a portrait of the founder: the ultimate example of wearable art.