Schiaparelli, how to relaunch an iconic fashion house by Valeria Boi

Haute couture has always been fascinating and nowadays is still the supreme expression of high-end fashion design. It’s the creation of high quality custom-fitted garments, the luxury signature that makes you dream.

Elsa Schiaparelli surveys designs for a new collection at her home in Paris via WSJ

France is considered the place where it all started in the mid 19 century with the first ateliers, and in Paris is located Schiaparelli fashion house since 1927. Elsa Schiaparelli, the revolutionary Italian fashion designer, was born in 1890 from an aristocratic family, she travelled between Europe and United States and finally settled in Paris. Her passion for fashion and art brought her to become the pupil of the stylist Paul Poiret, and she began to design clothes for a small fashion house, and then for her own atelier.

Her first collection in 1927 was a success, changing the concept of the classic jumper making it fashionable: it’s the start of the series of the trompe-l'oeil effect, with the iconic hand-knitted jumper with the printed bow that became a best seller requested in New York and Paris. It was a triumph of geometric patterns, stripes, bright colors, like a reaction to the austerity of the first world war she experienced. Her collection included square shoulders, defined silhouette, with evening dresses that emphasized the sinuous lines. She was inspired by the Surrealists and some of her dresses were a mimic of Salvador Dali’s works, reproducing his painting details showing a great tailoring work.

Elsa Schiaparelli created this unusual lobster dress with the help of Surrealist artist Salvador Dali in 1937, demonstrating the interconnected nature of the fashion and art worlds in the early 20th century

Elsa Schiaparelli created this unusual lobster dress with the help of Surrealist artist Salvador Dali in 1937, demonstrating the interconnected nature of the fashion and art worlds in the early 20th century.

Despite Elsa Schiaparelli’s collections were pieces of art, they were requested by consumers, because it was easy to recognize a woman wearing Schiaparelli. In 1935 Schiaparelli was so popular that she doubled the number of her employees and in point of fact, she could count on 400 dressmakers, producing 7,000 to 8,000 garments per year. She knew that the America market was the main buyer of her collections and this was important to finance her fashion house.


"Fashion: Summer's Catch", Vogue (NY), Vol. 89, Iss. 10, (May 15, 1937)

Just a few customers could afford and wear her most creative collections, so she designed more “wearable” collections for the American department stores. Everything changed with the second world war, the crisis forced her to reduce the production and the labour force. When in the 1945 she presented the collection of the postwar period, she was no longer as successful as before. Two years later was the year of Dior and Balenciaga, and their idea of woman changed. Rounded shoulders, A-line skirt, completely different from Schiaparelli’s style. In 1947 she declared bankruptcy because of her economic issues, and the Italian fashion house officially closed in 1945.

After 67 years Diego Della Valle, the Italian entrepreneur and CEO of Hogan and Tod’s, relaunched the brand, giving new life to the historic atelier in Paris. The brand aimed to bring the creativity back to life, thinking about the original spirit of the fashion house. This year Daniel Roseberry, the actual director, presented the SS2022 haute couture collection with moulded bustiers and sharp jackets. He explained how they don’t think at the brand like a commercial market machine, but they feel free to be creative, and taking inspiration by Schiaparelli’s archive.

Schiaparelli  Haute Couture spring/summer 2021 Collection 

Accessories and details are showing the spirit of this collection where we can still find art’s pieces: eccentric hats and cuffs, the jewellery, the gold hat-head, feminine corsets and sheer fabrics. After the permanent space opened in Paris, last year the brand opened the first boutique on the New York department store Bergdorf Goodman, and also three pop up stores in Dover Street London, Los Angeles and New York. Obviously they are thinking about the next step: the retail expansion in Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia. They received two significant signals of a progressive economic growth, the positive feedback from the last selling and the varied age range of their customers.

As happened in 1930, at the moment the American market is still the most important market for Schiaparelli. While Elsa Schiaparelli was naturally focused on the haute couture, Roseberry thinks this is the moment for the ready-to-wear. He believes that customers can engage with the brand and all the things they love about Schiaparelli in an easier way, and the stores opened in New York and the great selling proved it.


Valeria Boi, London