Elsa Schiaparelli was known as the “Queen of Fashion,” and her inimitable stamp on design is more relevant than ever before. Experimental and idiosyncratic, Schiaparelli pushed the boundaries of conventional fashion in between the two World Wars and established a new sartorial vocabulary for women. She advocated for women to edit their wardrobes to reflect a well-curated and limited range of essentials, a notion that still flourishes today. Accredited for championing concepts like the powerful combination of black and white, zippers, clips, padded shoulders, culottes, the wrap dress, and asymmetrical cuts, Schiaparelli managed to infuse her own philosophies and fantasies into her line.
Hints of Schiaparelli’s first forays into jewelry are evident in the variety of materials she first used for buttons on couture, ranging from glass, amber, and crystal. Collaborations with friends like Albert Giacometti and Salvador Dalí yielded Surrealist and spontaneous ornaments which later evolved into more abstract and feminine jewelry. Pieces adventurously explored macabre themes like animals (including insects), zodiac signs, and Surrealist symbols.
The Stone Set was invited to Schiaparelli’s Paris apartment on the storied Place Vendôme, nestled amongst some of France’s most iconic jewelry brands. The space, formerly Schiaparelli’s salon and headquarters, reflects her collaborations with some of the most avant-garde artists of her time. Original Man Ray portraits and furnishings by Jean-Michel Frank transport you to the peak of Modernism. Schiaparelli’s signature shade of shocking pink covers a tufted couch. Below, enjoy an intimate look at the house’s haute couture costume jewelry and an exclusive conversation with brand ambassador and fashion muse, Farida Khelfa. -Jenna Fain for The Stone Set
“My role at Schiaparelli is very diverse, from working with the studio to giving interviews (like now with you!) about Elsa Schiaparelli: the woman and the couturier, her legacy and her modernity. It is such a great experience. I must say it came at the most unexpected moment of my life. When I received that call, I was completely embracing filmmaking and thought fashion was behind. When that offer came up, it was something you simply cannot turn down. Now, doing both, I see that both are very important to me. They both bring me a balance that only one would not bring. They are enriching experiences vital for a balanced life.
I admire Schiaparelli for her courage, the fact she was daring, adventurous and strong! She managed to impose herself, her image and her style all by herself. I also really love what she represented as a woman and the message she was conveying for women. By the way, women of that period were extremely strong and did things that were simply incredible. They paved the way for women’s emancipation. She created a style. Fashion is about that. Something that is beyond trends and that never goes out of fashion. Not everyone is able to do it.
Talent is not enough. You need this little extra something to make it a style. But, Schiap’ definitely had it. You recognize it at first sight. She was inspired by everything that was around her. She was the first one to use trompe l’oeil or camouflage (something that was coming from the First World War), to come up with a newspaper’s print on silk (because she saw women selling fish at a fish market in Denmark wearing newspapers folded into hats), to collaborate with artists (from Dalí to Cocteau amongst many others), to bring the zip in haute couture, to invent shocking pink, etc… She did so many incredible things that we still think today are revolutionary even though she did them almost a century ago. She created and invented beauty out of the ordinary.
To give life to a couture house bearing such an iconic and magical name and rich legacy makes it such an interesting part to play. To revive today a couture house is a huge challenge that is all the more exciting. It is about creating an alternative to what is out there (just like Elsa Schiaparelli was an alternative in her days), bringing a creative vision as inventive as it is chic and keeping her spirit and making it relevant for today’s women.
The pins, the stars and the padlocks are standout jewelry pieces in the Spring ’15 couture collection. They are a new take on Elsa Schiaparelli’s haute couture and creative vision. The stars are inspired by the star constellation of the great Bear. Ursa Major was one of her fetish. As a child, she felt the beauty spots appearing on her cheek were not gracious. Her uncle who was a famous astronomer told her she was more than unique and lucky as they formed the shape of Ursa Major.
Elsa started extensively using padlocks from 1935 on as embroidery, prints and buttons. Padlocks are a poetic evocation to opening something new…Last but not least, the pins have a multi-layered inspiration crossing pinned hearts (Elsa used pierced hearts a lot in her fashion), glass-headed pins (a key tool for a seamstress working in a Haute Couture atelier) and trompe l’oeil (the first idea Elsa developed in fashion with her trompe l’oeil sweater that became an instant hit).
We are a small team at Schiaparelli. Therefore, everything is developed at the same time and ignited by the same creative vision for the season. Of course, we know Schiaparelli’s legacy through all the archives shown in books, in exhibitions and the ones we own. But, we have to distance ourselves from them to make the story relevant today. What we want to express is her incredible spirit and the way she was looking at things, mixing high & low, using colors, bold prints, exquisite embroideries, quirky jewelry and details, experimental fabrics, etc. together with giving a new light to her aesthetic lexicon.
We are only at the beginning of our story with jewelry. Being able to collaborate with Gripoix today who was already working for Schiaparelli in the 1930s is exciting. Season after season, expect more of our spectacular couture jewelry.” -Farida Khelfa of Schiaparelli
Photography by Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set. Frida Khelfa portait by Peter Lindbergh.