Elsa Schiaparelli at Musée des Arts Décoratifs – Surrealism is in Her Veins | Words by Nafiseh Soolari

Dear Shaded Viewers,

It is a time when conversations are for and about women, we are at a new crossroads, a time when we can dream it all, and be it all more than ever.

To dream bigger we need to know and see it’s presence, because without awareness how can we know what to dream? To the ones that dream of creativity, an unlimited horizon, Elsa Schiaparelli is for you.

Schiaparelli was a multifaceted being one who grew more into her expression as the times changed; referring to herself as an “inspired” seamstress. As an Italian couturière she was always leading towards grander deliveries as she crossed paths with writers, astrologist, photographers, designers and painters—the great artists and artisans of her time. It’s what you get a taste of when you enter the exhibit.

Enter the room of sketches, it takes a minute but the colors invite you in, a rough draft of her forming in your mind—

The twinkling lights highlighting her initial creations, but it’s the note of Paul Poiret, her mentor, that really brings her into her power,

You see the shift and the rough draft suddenly has music,

A symphony of influences beyond Europe,

She wades into her interest in the Art Deco period, the ensembles further highlighting its glory, magnificent Jean Dunand & Madame Agnés giving sculptural refinement and decorative effects to her creations, imagine big accentuated sleeves and a hat you can see from miles away

Picasso’s presentation was a gem of a moment—his rendition of a Schiaparelli jacket on Nusch Eluard, the stark contrast between green and yellow presented in only a way Picasso could create, is a joy for the eyes. Jean Cocteau, Meret Oppenheim, Elsa Triolet are just a few of the names presented as examples of an exploration of her inspirations through her friendships with artists.

Known for trompe l’oeil, she is known for embellishing a silhouette with padding to accentuate the effect of her creations. You see the Man Ray capture her, the rough draft shapes into a surrealism theme and Salvador Dalí’s lobster dress comes into view. A cage of perfumes and sounds of birds showcase her marketing prowess. A nod to the launch of her 1937 fragrance famously titled Shockingestablishing the memorable shocking pink we have all come to know her for.

The second floor is a reconstruction of Schiaparelli’s couture salons and you get a sense of Jean-Michel Frank’s interior design for her along with the expansion of her reputation though silhouettes she creates with intricate embroidery, baroque references and circus playfulness. Pre-war and post-war designs are clearly visible and you wind down on her 25-year journey of avant-garde curiosity.

When you see the Marcel Vertés artwork for Schiaparelli you see the full image building an Italian in Paris romance. It’s a sweet sampling of her persona, her heritage and legacy—and it leaves you wanting more, appreciating the vast contributions she made to fashion and the spirit of the feminine.

What follows are the contemporary creations by Roseberry, a finale that salutes the vision of allure Schiaparelli focused on in her surrealist journey. Elsa was once quoted saying, “One [has] to sense the trend of history and precede it.” The world of Schiaparelli on exhibit at Musée des Arts Décoratifs delivers this statement and more than that, exudes this aesthetic by allowing the viewer to carry the memories of a surrealist painting home with them.



Nafiseh Soolari

Nafiseh Soolari is a creative consultant, writer and photographer— "I love translating the beauty I see in all the moments around me, people, places, things; and I aspire to share my vision: to create a single moment for me and you to connect and realize what this amazing world has to offer..."