PARIS, France — Elsa Schiaparelli’s uncle was an astronomer, who sensitively pointed out that the many moles on her face were the same configuration as the Great Bear constellation. The ever-resilient Schiap had her friend Salvador Dali make a brooch of it for her. And, in his latest collection, Bertrand Guyon, current standard-bearer for the her legacy, copied the design onto a white cashmere cape, along with the sun and the moon. He draped it over a big red heart, instarsia-ed into a little white tunic dress, with thigh-high boots in the same red. The effect was provocative and pleasing, the kind of update you imagined Schiap herself would have enjoyed.
Guyon’s engagement with her legacy was the foundation of this collection. After four seasons at Schiaparelli, he felt ready to take on the house icons – the lobster, the Cocteau faces. “If I’d used them too early on, people would think me ignorant,” he said. Like he’d be using the house codes to curry favour. Here, the lobster that Dali originally painted on a dress for Schiap was deliciously reproduced as an applique on silk crepe. The Cocteau faces were re-produced in caviar beading, a surreal touch borrowed by Guyon from a Guy Bourdin shoot for French Vogue in 1970. (Bourdin used black pearls.) And there were hot injections of Schiap’s Shocking, her signature pink.
Guyon also introduced elements of her love of China and Japan: lotuses handpainted on ivory silk crepe, a gilded capelet articulated samurai-style, tigers writhing on a jacket. But to his credit, none of this felt contrived. In fact, beyond the bullhorns of the big houses, it is someone like Guyon who is quietly sustaining the spirit of haute couture with his efforts to modernise the rare, precious and beautiful.