It’s testament to Christian Lacroix’s position as something of a national treasure in France that the great and the good of the fashion world turned up at the event to celebrate his entirely unique homage of a collection to Elsa Schiaparelli. Azzedine Alaia, Jean Paul Gaultier and Lacroix posing together for photographers formed an imposing trio, fitting for the occasion at Musée des Arts Décoratifs where two design kindred spirits came together for a collection that will exist purely for visual consumption rather than paying clientele. Since being acquired by Diego Della Valle in 2007, the House of Schiaparelli has been building up to its relaunch with Marco Zanini, formerly of Rochas, recently announced as creative director.
In the run-up to Zanini’s debut for the house, we have this Lacroix-Schiap love-in, which meant that Lacroix – whose business went into administration in 2009 – could express himself once more in the realm of haute couture. After being led through a gilded bird-caged passage of blossom branches with iPads depicting songbirds nestled amongst them, we were confronted by a gleaming mirrored carousel, rotating to reveal a set of specially created Schiaparelli mannequins with modernised sphinx faces, on which Lacroix and Schiaparelli’s respective design codes mingled with each other. From an astonishing and initial 99 sketches, Lacroix narrowed it down to eighteen core silhouettes, as he took elements from Schiaparelli’s archive and added his own recognisable flourishes. For example, a coat with pockets may have been a Schiaparelli innovation in the 1940s, but Lacroix puffed up the bottom of the coat to evoke his own archives. An upside down corset where the bust line is upturned came splayed with Schiap’s shocking pink and lavish Lesage embroidery and modernised with Lacroix’s cigarette velvet trousers. The monkey fur jackets of Schiaparelli’s day are evoked in a goat hair top with a ballooning skirt that is classic Lacroix. Ditto for the red taffeta side-bow harem trousers and leg-o-mutton-sleeved midnight blue cropped jacket.
Whilst this one-off homage is not necessarily a direct preamble to what we can expect from the House of Schiaparelli’s official rebirth, it was heartening to see Lacroix return to the couture limelight with carte blanche in this fantastical indulgent moment.