“It’s exciting because I think that a lot of people don’t remember Schiaparelli and know what Schiaparelli really brought to fashion,” said Ken Downing, fashion director of Neiman Marcus.
“It’s interesting to see also all the pink that’s on the runway for this spring season and a lot of the shocking pink has already begun to emerge,” he said of the signature Schiaparelli color.
“And even as we went into the fall season at Lanvin, there was jewelry that was very Elsa Schiaparelli – the Victorian hands, the eyes, the lips, the belts.”
“Fashion ideas have to come from somewhere. This spring there’s also a lot of artisan ideas from the ’20s. There was a lot of excitement around (Woody Allen’s) ‘Midnight in Paris’ and now the remake of ‘The Great Gatsby’ and there was a great exhibit of art in Paris (and currently at The Met) of all the collected work of Gertrude Stein and her brothers Leo and Michael,” he said, expecting the ’20s trend to continue.
Downing also said the Surrealist influence comes through in ready-to-wear graphics:
“When we were in New York for Diane Von Furstenberg’s show – and Diane always sort of uses hearts and lips as her logos – but she really kind of amplified the whole idea of that kind of Surrealism that Schiaparelli was really known for.”
Costume Institute curator in charge Harold Koda has said that juxtaposing the designers’ collections opens up the dialogue on “how the past enlightens the present and how the present enlivens the past.”
Downing was in Milan at the launch party for the exhibit, thrown by Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief, who is serving as the May 7 exhibit gala’s co-chair along with Miuccia Prada and actress Carey Mulligan.
“We were all there and Harold Koda spoke,” Downing said, “and it’s interesting that he makes that commentary, because I always say that we love a nod to the past as we redefine the future, because we are very obsessed with nostalgia in fashion at this time and place. We are always influenced by something from the past.”
Schiaparelli’ s partnership with Dalí and Jean Cocteau and Prada’s ongoing Fondazione Prada, which exhibits artists’ works, exemplify the symbiosis that can occur between art and fashion and that The Met hopes translates into mass appeal.
Who knows if Schiaparelli and Prada, with their equally strong personalities, would have hit it off had they met, despite their similarities. But co-curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton clearly want to have fun with the setup of their presentation. The exhibit is modeled after “Impossible Interviews,” a 1930s Vanity Fair feature by artist Miguel Covarrubias, in which he staged fake conversations between famous figures of the day like Sigmund Freud and Jean Harlow.