15 January 2010

We loved reading Anna Wintour’s comments about the Rodarte designers Laura and Kate Mulleavy this week. The editrix of US Vogue declared: 'The Mulleavys are ripe for a house who might be looking for a designer. A place like Schiaparelli, which is just sitting there waiting for the economy to be better — I think they'd be perfect for that.'

Grazia already has Schiaparelli on the brain right now because, thanks to some kind of collective sensing of the zeitgeist, seemingly half the office is currently reading the designer’s self-penned memoir – Shocking Life: The autobiography Of Elsa Schiaparelli, which was republished by the V&A a couple of years ago.

For those who don’t know, Schiaparelli was a wonderfully eccentric Italian fashion designer whose Parisian couture house and boutique took the world by storm in the '30s and '40s.

A fierce rival of Coco Chanel’s, their styles were polar opposites – with Schiaparelli’s avant garde designs, and love of shocking pink, her signature colour, after which her perfume Shocking was named.

Schiaparelli hung out and collaborated with the surrealist artists of the day from Dali to Cocteau, and their influence can be seen in her shoe hat, desk suit (with pockets embroidered to look like drawers and knob ‘buttons’), and her lobster evening gown (worn by the Duchess of Windsor in a portrait by Cecil Beaton).

Rodarte are clearly already influenced by Schiaparelli; their sequinned skeleton tunic designed for their collection for Target recalls Schiaparelli’s own Skeleton Dress, a black crepe dress decorated quilted bones, which she created in collaboration with Dali.

The autobiography is a fabulously bonkers romp through Schiaparelli’s world, which, even during wartime, never seemed to be anything less than a total blast. We promise you’ll be hooked. And maybe, like our Web Editor, you’ll also get a sudden desire to purchase Nars’ Schiap nail polish in shocking pink.

We’re thrilled about the idea of the legendary fashion house being revived. Closed in 1954, it was bought in 2007 by Italian business mogul Diego Della Valle, who also owns Tod's. Olivier Theyskens and Roland Mouret were rumoured to be in the running for head designer. Whether or not the Rodarte sisters take over remains to be seen, this book proves one thing for sure: Elsa Schiaparelli is a tough act to follow.

Shocking Life: the autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli £8.99, V&A Publications,

Schiap nail polish, Nars, £12


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