For a few years in the 1930s, Elsa Schiaparelli's salon at 21 Place Vendôme was to fashion what Gertrude Stein's was to arts and letters: a legendary incubator for thoughtful, groundbreaking work that invited the likes of Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau to collaborate. The stories - and looks - from that era have long been consigned to books and film.
Now the Schiaparelli brand is getting, quite literally, a new lease of life. Last night, at an event attended by a number of 'friends' including the likes of Philippe Starck, Jean-Paul Goude and Inès de la Fressange, the Place Vendôme salon reopened to a younger generation of fashion historians curious to unpack the mind of the great designer. And old souls of the kind who camped out for the current 'Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations' exhibition at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York can savour a taste of that era - albeit by appointment only.
The four-storey 18th-century building was overhauled by Vincent Darré of the venerable Maison Darré, a kindred spirit if there ever was one. Darré, who references cubism, surrealism, futurism and art deco in his work (and collaborated with Stepevi to create a rug for our Handmade 2011 issue), embraced Schaparelli's lust for shocking pink and asymmetry, adding dynamic, wildly coloured pieces to her own collection of art and artifacts by Man Ray and Dalí. His rugs, bureaus and dining furniture incorporate the most outlandish traits of the early 20th century, while gilded mirrors and chandeliers acquired specially for the space nod to Louis XIV.
Tod's founder and president Diego Della Valle, who bought the maison (both the bricks and mortar and the fashion house) in 2006, recently appointed brand ambassador Farida Khelfa, even before naming a designer for the fashion collections that will show early next year (he should make an announcement this autumn). Khelfa, a former model and muse to the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and Jean-Paul Goude, will represent the brand in the same way Inès de la Fressange helped revive Roger Vivier last decade. If Khelfa is able to establish it as the thinking-woman's label for the 21st century, we may all be able to own a bit of Schiap. That would be surreal.