Elsa Schiaparelli – Why So Shocking?Katy Whitehead
When considering the life of any entrepreneur, the more you look into their achievements, the more you come across their life story and personality. And the more you reveal of their personal history, the more their achievements and career choices make sense. What I have read and studied of Schiaparelli’s life and art, has left me with the feeling that this woman was a enigma, a mix of romantic notions and fantasy along with the natural will and determination to succeed and provide for her own. Elsa Schiaparelli can be said to have wilfully travelled the uncertain path of many visionary artists with a strange but alluring determination and confidence that it would succeed.
Elsa Schiaparelli, unlike her undisputed rival Gabrielle Chanel, began her life very comfortably, and had she kept to the road that was mapped out for her, her life could have been very different. Spared on by drive and determination, she notedly rebelled against her schooling and her parents preferred choice of husband, leaving her home and country to start on her own. Her inspiration for change stemming from a rather impressive number of accomplishments by her educated family, she had a taste for mythology, fantasy and surrealism. This led her down many other colourful and interesting paths until it landed her at the door of the surrealist art movement, as pioneered by Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau, and influenced her to infiltrate the fashion world in the 1930’s with innovative and daring new styles and looks. Other influences came in the form of a dear friend and mentor – Paul Poiret – who guided her own endeavours and style towards the fashion industry. Indeed, Elsa Schiaparelli successfully created ‘wearable art’.
Between the two world wars, designer Schiaparelli made her mark as one of the greatest fashion designers in history and her influence can still been seen today in fashion around the world. For example, she was one of the first designers to develop the wrap dress. Also, the shade of pink that we know as ‘shocking Pink’ originated with the House of Schiaparelli, when she commissioned and oversaw the design of a box of perfume inspired by a pink diamond owned by one of Schiaparelli’s own clients, heiress Daisy Fellowes. This perfume was given the name ‘Shocking’, and thereafter lent that same name to that loud, but beautiful colour.
Her name was well known amongst the rich and famous alike and she became a leader in the fashion world. Schiaparelli couture was produced and provided for actresses such as Mae West and Greta Garbo, and well-known public figures such as Wallis Simpson. Vintage Schiaparelli is also still seen everywhere today, and can be available to you at The Vintage Pattern Shop, allowing you to own a one of her iconic garments.
Her autobiography, entitled ‘Shocking life’ is one that details and maps out her unique career success. Her vision forever moved the boundaries between art and fashion design. One of the best Elsa Schiaparelli quotes from her book is that ‘dress designing, incidentally, is to me not a profession but an art.’