#7 Impossible Conversations - Influnce of Art on Clothing Designs

Last week, I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to see "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations" curated by Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda.

Schiaparelli and Prada. "Waist Up/ Waist Down." Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The exhibition explores the similarities between two influential Italian designers from different eras, Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) and Miuccia Prada. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the movie depicts the two women engaged in a conversation as contemporaries, Prada as herself and Judy Davis as Schiaparelli. The dialogues cover from beauty to fashion as Prada responds to questions asked by Bolton and Davis speaks from Shocking Life, Schiaparelli’s autobiography. Approximately 100 designs and 40 accessories by Schiaparelli from her late 1920s to early 1950s collections and by Prada from the late 1980s to the present are showcased. These costumes are organized in 7 themes – “Waist Up/ Waist Down,” “Ugly Chic,” “Hard Chic,” “Naif Chic,” “The Classical Body,” “The Exotic Body,” and “The Surreal Body.”

Schiaparelli and Prada. "Naif Chic." Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Schiaparelli and Prada share superficial affinities in their biography such as the Italian background, their engagement with the art world and ├ępater la bourgeoisie sensibilities (which means to shock the respectable middle-class, often tied to the goal of the artists in Europe since the late 19th century). They also have essential likeness in their creative strategies. I am interested in observing how the two designers from different generation were influenced by art. Schiaparelli was heavily inspired by Modern art, especially Dada and Surrealism. Among the numerous imaginative designs by Schiaparelli and her contemporary artists, the most famous of is her collaboration with Salvador Dali. One famous example of the collaboration is the Lobster Dress, where Dali himself painted the lobster onto the front of the white silk evening dress. Other examples of her collaboration with the artist include Tears Dress, Skeleton Dress and Shoe Hat.

Schiaparelli in collaboration with Dali, 1937.

Although Prada never collaborates with anyone, she is an important patron of contemporary art as she is the founder of Fondazione Prada, along with her husband Patrizio Bertelli. She also was a devoted patron to the Young British artists. From looking at the exhibitions held at Fondazione Prada, you can tell that her taste in art is conceptual. In an interview with the New York Magazine, Prada says "I want to be good myself. I don't want to collaborate in my job.

Schiaparelli and Prada. "The Surreal Body." Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Although the curators of the Met or the public finds a significant similarities between Schiaparelli and Prada, Prada herself disagrees as she tells the New York Times that she was "never directly been inspired by Schiaparelli." She "now understands there actually were some similarities but it is other people's vision." I also have to agree with Prada because it was the curator's vision to use Schiaparelli and Prada together as one exhibition.

1 comment:

  1. I'll be in New York next week and will definitively check this out. Thanks for the great insight.