Schiaparelli launches new ready-to-wear capsule in Bergdorf; the latest step in the couture house’s slow boil
The venerable, and luxuriously quirky, house of Schiaparelli launches its latest capsule collection in Bergdorf Goodman on Friday, naming it – quelle surprise – Pink Victory. Besides the idiosyncratic style, the debut is also the latest expression of a novel approach to relaunching a fashion legend, a house born in 1927, before the television, never mind the Internet.
Its lengthy relaunch is also idiosyncratic, though with a certain Italian logic at its center. Not so surprising either – since its founder and owner are both Italian. Elsa Schiaparelli, born in Rome in 1890, was one of the greatest couturiers and fashion revolutionaries of all time, whose fetish hue was shocking pink. Diego della Valle, 64, the highly successful though maverick billionaire from the eastern Marches region -- who also controls Tod’s, Hogan and the Fiorentina football club -- bought Schiaparelli in 2007.
On Friday, Schiaparelli unveils Story #2, the second installment of its new ready-to-wear and accessories division, a concise wardrobe of some 31 pieces, in the house’s pop-up fresh in Bergdorf Goodman. Story #1 referenced Man Ray, and photo surrealism, and started in stores in September.
“The idea is an accumulation of stories, each time via a capsule,” explains CEO Delphine Bellini, over coffee inside Schiaparelli headquarters on Paris’ priciest square, Place Vendôme. A strategy that mirrors Della Valle’s new T Factory project plans for Tod’s, a new creative hub for collaborations that began this fall with Alessandro Dell’Acqua.
Story #2 jumps back and forth between the Hellenistic imagery of Schiap’s Roman youth, her sojourns in NYC and the contemporary obsession with athleisure. Like a bright pink faux-fur bomber jacket with a marvelous silk lining – a print of winged goddesses wearing American football helmets and holding Arcimboldo heads. While for evening, there are entrancing cocktails in a potpourri of crazy beads and twisting feathers.
In September, Bellini also launched a new finely-tooled leather bag, The Secret, with hefty golden padlock clasp, offered in pink; and also in a black and white sketch of the moon, with old-fashioned electric cord. The same print seen on a raw silk black evening jacket. Nylon smock anoraks; truly shocking pink silk coat dresses finished in shards of raw fabric; and some great cashmere sweatshirts in a jumbled-up print of scared eyes, Dali imagery and Man Ray photos. Stand-out sweaters and baseball jackets over which march goddesses in helmets, bearing aloft giant locks as trophies – all made out of some really great Aegean blue beading. The collection is designed by a studio team, while the house’s next couture collection, by couturier Bertrand Guyon, will be shown on Jan. 21, once again in the Paris Opera, like last season.
The Roman founder’s eclecticism was on show in the surprised Greek actress mask brooches and her famous fetish bronze hand cufflinks with pink nail varnish.
“Color gives ecstatic pleasure… One can add pads and bows, one can lower or raise the lines, modify the curves, accentuate this or that point, but the harmony must remain. The Greeks understood this rule,
and gave their goddesses, the serenity of perfection and the fabulous appearance of freedom,” Schiaparelli once wrote in her memoir Shocking Life.
All the new ideas displayed inside the department store in giant trunks, with video displays duplicating the Place Vendôme’s vistas from dawn to dusk.
Schiaparelli ready-to-wear doesn’t come cheap: the snazzy cocktail costs $6,000, though the entry-level sweatshirts are $300. The house’s turnover is a handful of millions; and, for the moment, there are no immediate plans to release a scent, or menswear. The development, by contemporary standards, is taking place at a snail’s place. Responds Bellini: “We have to advance carefully. We don’t want to rush; we just launched ready-to-wear. We don’t go too fast or too far; we have to respect the house and its values. As it is not an emerging brand we have to be very careful. We cannot just play with the heritage; we don’t have a right to fail!”
The house has been on a slow boil. Each season, new elements are added to the salon – such as two antique 19th century wooden mannequins - named by Elsa as Pascal and Pascaline. “Schiap even had a wedding ceremony for this pair, can you imagine?” smiles Bellini.
Or the perfect judged bookshelves from Jean-Michel Frank or an almost psychedelic tableau with butterflies; harlequins; duchesses in Schiap frocks; and Napoleon’s column in Place Vendôme.
The new collection will be available in just two locations; Bergdorf and Schiaparelli headquarters at 21 Place Vendôme. The latter is not a ground-floor boutique, but a salon space on the third floor on the sunny north side of the square, where shoppers need to be vetted before going upstairs.
“The democratization of fashion means you find everything everywhere. We definitely want to remain exclusive. And offer the best experience,” explains Bellini, who wears a Schiaparelli patchwork-print silk jacket in a jumble of Man Ray photographs, held together with wacky buttons. That photographer was the leitmotif of the first capsule, while buttons are a key Schiap signature. Sculptor Alberto Giacometti used to make them for Elsa.
“Madame Schiaparelli gave so much to women in terms of culture, art and empowerment. She was an entrepreneurial couturier which is very inspiring for today’s women,” insists Bellini.
“Story #2 is wardrobe of casual day to arty evening. Next year, we want to create happening events, and are looking at other pop-ups, probably other cities. The key thing is to bring a certain magic and surprise,” she concludes.
Schiaparelli boutique-salons, 21 place Vendôme (Mon-Sat/10am-7pm).
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