From The Met comes Impossible Conversations, a look at the work of Elsa Schiaperelli and Miuccia Prada, two of fashion history’s most indispensible designers
Before heading to yesterday’s preview of Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations at The Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute, we couldn’t help but think about how challenging it must have been when trying to top last year’s record-breaking retrospective of the work of Alexander McQueen.
And while the McQueen tribute celebrated the late designer’s deft hand at the theatrical nature of high-fashion, this year saw curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton mining through the genius work of two women designers, Elsa Schiaperelli and Miuccia Prada. Both of whom are considered to be the most influential designers of the past 100 years and share affinities beyond simply being Italian women in the field of design.
Wandering through the storied halls of the museum we were led to a series of beautifully rendered vignettes with each designers clothing assembled side by side as if to point out the obvious commonalities between the two women’s tastes and viewpoints. Divided into “Hard Chic,’ ‘Ugly Chic’ and by bottoms and accessories, the tableau reveals if anything both women’s desire to subvert beauty through both the sensual and the sublime along with the long-standing divide between good taste and bad taste through textiles, prints and ornamentation.
Grazing the floor and covered with ornate, often witty decorative motifs, Elsa Schiaperelli’s 30’s era designs effortlessly withstand the test of time and remain the epitome of feminine elegance in spirit and composition.
A champion of surreal minded fashion, Schiaperelli’s designs imposed a rich imagination come to life on her patrons with her iconic ‘shoe hats’ and ‘bug necklaces’ and encrusted lobster ornamentations to name a few. As her rival Coco Chanel set about to liberate women with approachable, menswear mined fashion in an attempt to define the growing masses of haute bourgeois clients in need of a new look strife with uniformity, Schiaperelli brought with her a thoroughly Italian minded sensibility through statement making, ostentatious and even challenging pieces that never let go of their femininity, much like Miuccia Prada’s designs.
A glorious tome was produced exclusively for the exhibition featuring over 300 pages with 200+ glorious photographs old & new.
Gallery of Archival Photos + Museum Installations:
Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations at The Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute runs from May 10–August 19, 2012. Visit MetMuseum.org