PARIS, France — Ever since fashion magnate Diego Della Valle acquired the rights to couturier Elsa Schiaparelli’s name in 2007, the fashion world has waited with bated breath for news of the label’s relaunch, which was formally confirmed last year. Today, following speculation in Women’s Wear Daily that Marco Zanini, creative director of Rochas, would be tapped as creative director, Schiaparelli revealed that the French couturier Christian Lacroix would produce a one-off 15-piece couture collection for the brand, to be shown at Paris Couture Week in July at the brand’s historic home at 21 place Vendôme. The Schiaparelli brand has not yet officially commented on the Zanini rumours, but a PR spokesperson told BoF late last night that they are unfounded.
“Elsa is a sacred sphinge who never ceases to interrogate us while offering us new enigmas as answers. Art, theater and cinema... my wish is to reposition Elsa at the center of her maison and on the stage from which she once seduced the world,” Lacroix said in a statement released by Schiaparelli.
Lacroix came into prominence in the 1980s and is best known for his theatrical couture collections. Impacted by the minimalism wave of the 1990s, Lacroix’s couture business, then backed by LVMH, faltered before finding a new lease on life, in 2005, with duty-free retailer Falic Group. The reboot failed, however, and Lacroix’s brand was put into administration in 2009. Since then, Lacroix has designed interiors for various luxury hotels in Paris and costumes for ballet and opera productions.
Despite today’s news, the question of who will take the reins as Schiaparelli’s permanent creative director remains unanswered. Della Valle, who quietly amassed his fortune as founder and chief executive of the Italian leather goods brand Tod’s, with additional stakes in other fashion ventures, had hoped to appoint a creative director by last September, to no avail. As a result, Schiaparelli’s relaunch was pushed back from January of this year to “June or July,” according to French actress Farida Khelfa, the brand’s spokesperson.
The delay is not for a lack of options; a number of designers have been put forward to take the top creative job at Schiaparelli. The first was British designer Giles Deacon, who was reportedly considered back in 2007, when Della Valle initially purchased the brand. John Galliano was also reported to be in talks to take up the position. Both parties denied this and speculation turned to Canadian-born Erdem Moralioglu and Nicolas Ghesquière.
So why has it been so difficult to find the right candidate?
Schiaparelli’s playful, Surrealism-inspired aesthetic is a tricky one to interpret for modern times. After all, the reason that the Italian designer is not nearly as well known as her contemporary and rival Coco Chanel is because Schiaparelli’s house struggled to adapt to the new fashion looks that took hold after the Second World War and her business folded.
Della Valle’s Schiaparelli needs a creative director who can harness the couturier’s quirk — she popularised trompe l’oeil effects on clothing and created the split skirt, a predecessor to shorts — but inject it with a sense of modernity, which is no small feat.