Shiaparelli and Prada: Met Madness

The Met Museum

Shiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations – is the new feature at the Met Mueseum’s Spring 2012 Costume Exhibition – it “explores the striking affinities between Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, two Italian designers from different eras.”

Inspired by a Miguel Covarrubia’s Vanity fair interview in the 1930’s, and Baz Luhrman’s video of iconic ensembles of these women’s works – who explore simlar themes but appraoch them differently.

The exhibition showcases approximately ninety designs and thirty accessories by Schiaparelli (1890–1973) from the late 1920s to the early 1950s and by Prada from the late 1980s to the present. Drawn from The Costume Institute’s collection and the Prada Archive, as well as other institutions and private collections, signature objects by both designers are arranged in seven themed galleries: “Waist Up/Waist Down,” “Ugly Chic,” “Hard Chic,” “Naïf Chic,” “The Classical Body,” “The Exotic Body,” and “The Surreal Body.”

Shiaparelli Vs. Prada

Portrait of Elsa SchiaparelliElsa Schiaparelli is an Italian designer born in Rome, into an intellectual family. As a reluctant academic, Schiaparelli eventually found interest in philosophy and published a book that shocked her traditional family into sending her into a convent. She was kicked out after a hunger strike.

After moving from London to the US, Schiaparelli moved to Paris in the 1920’s. After a stroke of luck, her designs were recognized and admired – and eventually she opened a boutique. Her designed were characteristically recognized by the bold colors – with the influential details of surrealism. However, in 1926, her business attempt failed due to financial reasons.

She went on to use her attic to present her work, in which her knitted sweaters garnered her enough attention to be featured in the December 1927 issue of Vogue. The next year she added bathing suits, beach pajamas, tweed sport suits, two-piece linen dresses, coats, and ski costumes to her collection. The sportswear she presented was very practical: sleeveless beach coats were lined with terrycloth. Bolstered by the sportswear success, Schiaparelli moved onto evening wear and couture.

By the peak of her success, her business attempt failed again – after WWII. Dior captured the new look, a look that Schiaparelli rejected 30 years ago. Up until her death in 1973, at age 83, she continued to receive visits from celebrities. Although the House of Schiaparelli closed in 1954, her ground breaking ideas continue to influence the fashion world of today, where her designs have been continuously been seen time and time again.

Prada began in 1913 as a Milanese shop, called Fratelli Prada, selling Italian leather goods and imported English steamer trunks and handbags – focusing on luxurious traveling accessories to accompany the new air travel of the time. The shop was launched in 1913 by Mario Prada and his brother Martino. Despite Mario’s beliefs that a woman had no role in business, Mario’s daughter ran the business until her daughter, Miuccia, gained control of Prada in 1978.

Miuccia Prada studied at the University of Milan where she earned a doctorate in political sciences. She then trained as a mime for 5 years before she decided to enter into her family’s luxury leather goods company.  In a time of financial crisis and turned it around with her innovative designs- with the support of her future husband Patrizio Bertelli.

The success of the Prada bags eventually established a place in luxury department stores and boutiques worldwide. Then the first Ready-to-wear was launched, and the company launched further into popularity. The RTW collections were characterized by clean lines, classical colors, and luxury fabrics. It was what the fashion world wanted at the time. During the 1980’s, other labels were designing with sexuality and bright colors, however, Prada was different and everyone took notice.

“The Prada look has evolved over the decades and Miuccia is credited with many fabric and design innovations. She has added a myriad of embellishments, from mirror fragments to latex beads, to her designs. Prada has historically been known for its use of crunchy polyester and nylon and a whole raft of other techno synthetics. Miuccia’s collections can vary widely from geek chic and minimalist to pure catwalk flamboyance.” – Style Sequel

Met Gala

The Costume Institute Gala (or Costume Institute Ball),  known as the Met Ball, is an annual ball that celebrates the opening of the Met Museum’s annual opening of the Costume Institute’s fashion exhibit. It is an evening popularly recognized to be an event for icons and celebrities have come dressed to impress. Top experts from the fashion industry and style experts consider the event, hosted by Vogue, to be one of the best red carpet events, and it has been dubbed, “Party of the Year.”

This year, with the opening of the Costume Institute on May 7th, 2012, Schiaparelli and Prada was the center of attention. With the exhibition of Shiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, many stars showed up with many lavish gowns. I won’t go into detail with the what stars showed up, and what they wore –  there are plenty of articles on that already.

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