The exhibition “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations”, which opens to the public from May 10 until August 19 at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, has been conceived to reflect on the communicative power of two outstanding figures in the history of Italian fashion and culture.
Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars. Starting with knitwear, Schiaparelli’s designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dalí and Alberto Giacometti. Schiaparelli was an innovative woman and fashion designer whose legacy consists of many “firsts” in the fashion industry. Her career began with her introduction of graphic knitwear to the world of fashion with knit patterns and emblems. These led to her fanciful prints of body parts, food, and many more unusual themes.Her clients included the heiress Daisy Fellowes and actress Mae West. Schiaparelli did not adapt to the changes in fashion following World War II and her business closed in 1954.
The intuition of a parallelism between two women indisputably far apart, both for temporal and existential reasons, has led the two curators of the exhibition, Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda, to think of two different but complementary spheres of the same art landscape.
It is indeed the view of fashion as an aesthetic dimension provided with full dignity and autonomy primarily to unite the two designers. Women beloved to culture, interested in the construction of a link between style and art, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada reveal a common attitude to an inexhaustible dynamic and proactive power. The result is a provocative idea of fashion, thought against the common sense, constantly between traditional and new references: the nexus with Art Nouveau and Baroque provides a valuable foundation of innovative collections.
So these impossible conversations are made possible trough an exhibition that, in the differences, highlights the dialectical synthesis, pointing out how contemporary and very active Prada, with her political studies, with numerous awards and with an interesting reflection on the eclectic postmodernism, vivifys and actualizes the main message of Schiaparelli, fascinated by Dadaism and Surrealism and collaborator of Dali and Jean Cocteau.
The exhibition, consisting of several items of clothing by Schiaparelli, (late ’20s – early ’50s), and by Prada, (late 80s – nowadays), is divided into seven thematic galleries: “Waist Up / Waist Down”, ” Ugly Chic”, ” Porn Chic”, ” Naive Chic”, ” The Classical Body”, ” The Exotic Body” and “The Surreal Body”. To enrich the exhibition are also included simulated conversations between the designers, directed by Baz Luhrmann, with the aim of giving substance to the visual dialogue between the two protagonists.
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