(MENAFN -Arab News) SIXTY YEARS after Elsa Schiaparelli’s last runway show, the fashion house on Monday made a highly-awaited comeback with an elegant collection studded with whimsy, in a nod to the Italian style legend.
Italian designer Marco Zanini’s first haute couture collection prompted delight from designer Jean Paul Gaultier and former French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy for its wearability, while keeping a whiff of Schiaparelli’s eccentricity.
Arriving guests trod a carpet in Schiaparelli’s signature shocking pink before passing through a bamboo cage surrounded by cherry blossoms like that which once graced the entrance to the designer’s Paris boutique.
The designer, known fondly as Schiap, died in 1973. She had been among fashion’s most prominent figures between the two world wars and was seen as Coco Chanel’s biggest rival.
A close friend of Salvador Dali, who famously painted the lobster on her 1937 Lobster Dress, she created many surrealist fashion pieces such as the shoe hat before her label closed down in 1954.
Zanini’s Spring-Summer collection gave muted nods to Schiaparelli’s famed flights of fancy, with models sporting brightly colored hair, a blue fringe, pointed and twisting hats or a dip dyed bridal veil.
The first model wore a long draping dress in Schiaparelli pink, blue and white with a hand-painted print called “the starry sky,” according to the designer.
A masculine suit, with ruffled hem and a beaded striped silk T-shirt dress were both worn with flat, feathered crocodile sandals, adding a touch of “nonchalance,” according to the designer’s notes.
Long evening dresses were paired with tailored jackets and high-waisted trousers with elbow-length white gloves in a collection which Zanini said mixed elegance and eccentricity.
The designer, who previously worked for Rochas, took inspiration from “the materials and exclusive prints” used by Schiaparelli, working with Parisian embroiderers, plumassiers — who work with ornamental feathers — and glovemakers to realize the handmade couture items.
“It is very beautiful and poetic, very modern... but also very wearable,” said Gaultier, who joined supermodel Elle Macpherson at the show, adding he was surprised by “unexpected” touches in the clothes.
Bruni-Sarkozy, a former model, said the collection was “magnificent and also simple... it is completely wearable for the woman of today.”
Haute couture exists only in Paris, where it is a legally protected appellation subject to strict criteria such as the amount of work carried out by hand, the limited number of pieces and the size of a house’s workforce.
Christian Dior also unveiled its latest collection celebrating the intimate relationship between the woman and the designer that is at the root of haute couture.
Creative Director Raf Simons used intricate cutwork and embroidery in a light and effortless collection with dresses, capes and tuxedo jackets dotted with small holes.
Simons mostly stuck to a color palette of black, white, ivory and ink blue in his 53 creations which included loose-fitting dresses, varying from off-the-shoulder to strapless, some with plunging V-neckline.
Calf-length dresses with billowing skirts were paired with sneakers in what Simons sees a “new insouciance.”
He said he doesn’t want to “force a look” on women and that it is okay to take off your heels, pop on some comfortable shoes and go dancing.
“Haute couture became something women were watching... as a spectacle the way you go to theater. It is not all about the red carpet.”
“I also want to feel like you want to wear it... connect it more with the way of living.”
American actress Allison Williams from the hugely popular series “Girls,” who joined other celebrities such as Kate Bosworth, said she particularly loved a series of “gorgeous” jumpsuits.
The show took place in an all white room that resembled the inside of a cave, or igloo, in what the designer’s notes described as a Modernist “re-imagining of the intimacy of the female area of the salon.”
Dior’s chief executive Sidney Toledano said Simons — in his fourth season for the house — and his modern take on the line had helped attract new clients.
He told AFP that 2013 was “a record year” for Dior haute couture, with more and more clients coming from Asian countries such as China.