Beloved by Yves Saint Laurent and loathed by Coco Chanel, who dismissed her as “that Italian”, Elsa Schiaparelli, the Italian-born French couturière, is best known for her unabashed originality and her willingness to make bold statement pieces. While not as commercially successful as her contemporaries Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet, Schiaparelli carved out her own lane during the interwar period by creating beautiful couture pieces that incorporated humour and whimsy into the process of dressmaking. Schiaparelli challenged the status quo of fashion, whether through her exploration of surrealism through collaborations with artists such as Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dalí, or her embrace of untraditional, textured fabrics.
While not many folks of that time would be daring enough to wear some of her most outrageous designs, like her iconic Lobster Dress, she managed to clothe many less adventurous types through her commercial agreements with department stores and specialty shops that were accessible to those outside of Europe’s elite.
This Black Persian Lamb Shrug that we are lucky enough to now have in the store is a great example of one of Schiaparelli’s more accessible, yet still innovative pieces. This piece, which was originally purchased in England in the 1950s, showcases Schiaparelli’s daring design practices by combining the aforementioned textured lamb’s wool with a stunning mink fur shawl to create a contrast of textiles that makes this coat a head turner. The interior of this coat is silk-lined in her trademark “shocking pink” and features dancing ballerinas, a nod to her surrealist nature of the time. This unique piece is even monogrammed with the initials of the original owner from the 1950s.
This piece of fashion history can be styled with couture of your own for a night out on the town or dressed down with denim or a simple cigarette trouser for an elegant everyday look. While her influence waned after World War II with the emergence of a new generation of designers, namely Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga, Schiaparelli pieces like this have stood the test of time and have become statement pieces for collectors and fashion aficionados alike.