Schiaparelli: How his friendship with Dalí led to iconic collaborations and designs

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the print edition of the Spring-Summer 2022 issue of Luxus+ Mag. click here to see the whole issue.

Elsa Schiaparelli was born in the Italian capital in 1890 and over the years has become a legendary and avant-garde fashion designer, known for her eccentricity and deliberately provocative character. Her creations also carried the surrealist touch of the artists who inspired Schiaparelli, including the well-known Salvador Dalí. A look back at the history of an emblematic collaboration.

103 years earlier, in 1919, Elsa Schiaparelli arrived in Paris, a year in which she had not yet recognized her talent for fashion. However, her interest in art began to manifest itself as she befriended Dadaist artists who rejected convention and challenged the norms of art, literature, and other intellectuals.

However, the Italian designer did not make her first step into the fashion world until 1927. This was a major departure from the other designers of the time as she was known for being one of the first to incorporate art into her designs. Her first collection is the embodiment of this desire, consisting of sweaters with large trompe l’oeil bows. They became bestsellers and emblematic pieces of the brand, which brought them to the fashion scene. Vogue was quick to call them “masterpieces.”

© Schiaparelli / Trompe l’oeil sweater

She became an accomplished designer at the helm of a successful fashion house, and throughout the 1930s she had ambitions to innovate and surprise more and more. One of the encounters that forever changed the course of her life and the history of her brand was with the Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí.

The Dalí-Schiaparelli era

The friendship between the artist and the designer led to numerous collaborations. Together they created several fashion pieces characterized by the nonchalance and eccentricity that perfectly characterized these two people.

©Salvador Dali

In 1935 their first joint creation was made, a box in the shape of a telephone dial. But it was Schiaparelli’s haute couture winter 1936-1937 collection, presented in August 1936, that marked their first official collaboration. The surreal Schiaparelli “Mirror Suit” was born, inspired by Spanish artist’s painting The Anthropomorphic Cabinet (1936).

© ArtCurial / Trompe l’oeil poudrier by Dalí and Schiaparelli

This first piece features real or trompe l’oeil pockets in the shape of boxes, and the suit’s buttons are made from drawer pulls.

The lobster, a recurring theme for Dalí and a symbol of his obsession with women, also inspired the Italian designer, leading to the creation of a lobster dress in 1937. Another emblematic piece in the work of Schiaparelli and Dalí, inspired by the artist’s work Telefon Homard. According to legend, Dali wanted to add some mayonnaise to the fabric, a suggestion the designer declined.

Introduced by the designer in 1938, the “Le Cirque” collection is an ode to the dialogue she had with Surrealist artists, particularly Dalí. From this collection and a new collaboration came the Tears Dress, a white mourning dress with a long veil. It is said to have been inspired by one of the torn dresses worn by a young woman in the painting Three Young Surrealist Women Holding the Skins of an Orchestra in their Arms (1936).

Finally, how can we talk about the many iconic collaborations between Dalí and Schiaparelli without mentioning the Chapeau Chaussure (1937)? Presented on the occasion of the haute couture winter collection 1937-1938, this original and surprising creation was inspired by a photograph taken by Gala in 1933, showing the famous artist with a woman’s shoe.


In addition to clothing, Dalí worked with Elsa Schiaparelli for many years. He designed fabric samples or perfume bottles for them, such as the labels for Shocking Radiance body oils or the Baccarat crystal bottle for their Le Roy Soleil perfume in 1946.

See also

Schiaparelli takes over the Musée des Arts Décoratifs for an extraordinary retrospective

From July 6, 2022 to January 22, 2023, the Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli and her iconic fashion creations will be dedicating a unique and provocative retrospective Museum of Decorative Arts (MAD) in Paris. From their history to their creations, nothing has been left to chance, where the visitor can sail between the wonderful and casual creations of Schiaparelli.

© Musee des Arts decoratifs (MAD)

After touring the exhibition at 107 Rue de Rivoli in Paris’ 1st arrondissement, just walk up the emblematic street and you’ll come across the 5-star Hotel Le Meurice. This luxury hotel features a restaurant named after Schiaparelli’s famous Spanish artist and friend, with whom he collaborated on many occasions: Salvador Dalí.

A unique and elegant place, the Dalí offers a rich variety of French gastronomic dishes to enjoy while immersing yourself in a world inspired by the artist himself.


Featured Photo: © Schiaparelli


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