The story
of the house
Anecdotes and key events
  • THE
  • THE
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Elsa Schiaparelli creates the first hand-knit pullover with a trompe-l’œil motif that is an instant success. In black and white, black and bright colours, with bow, geometric, skeleton, pierced heart, sailor tattoo or abstract tortoise motifs, the pullover is adopted by the actresses and celebrities of the age. Vogue deems it a masterpiece. The United States immediately snatches it up, making it a best-seller.
"The company
— Pour le sport ”
is established at
4, rue de la Paix.
The knitwear collections are complemented by beach pyjamas, swimsuits, tweed sportswear ensembles, ski suits and evening dresses.
Launch of the first fragrance “S”. By superstition, Elsa Schiaparelli decides to give her fragrances a name starting with the letter “S”.
The pullover with the trompe-l’œil bow becomes so famous that an American magazine publishes the pattern without mentioning the designer’s name.
First use of visible zips in Haute Couture (both decorative and functional).
First licences in the United States for printed clothing. Visionary, Elsa Schiaparelli anticipates fashion licences to develop her business. Such strategy will become a fashion industry’s common practice years later.
Sports champions wear Schiaparelli designs, especially pullovers.
Credits :
1927 & 28: Woman's sweaters courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art ; 1928: Model in two-piece Schiaparelli bathing suit © Condé Nast Archive/CORBIS ; 1929: Fitting at Elsa Schiaparelli's © Getty Images/Keystone-France ; Tennis professional Glenna Collett posing with Golf 1 Trophy © Underwood & Underwood/Corbis.
First strong-shouldered coats and suits, described as “hard chic” (the ancestor of the power suit).
As a modern and innovative woman, Elsa Schiaparelli files a patent for a one-piece swimsuit with an integrated bra. The invention of an integrated ‘built-in’ bra – called “falsies” – will later be extended to evening gowns, day dresses, …
First wrap dress in Haute Couture.
First evening jacket:  a white jacket wrapped around the waist of a long black dress. It starts a new style  wearing evening gowns with jackets.
First collaboration with an artist, Elsa Triolet creates the “aspirin” porcelain necklace.
New licences in the United States for shoes and coloured stockings.
Elsa writes her first article published in an American magazine.
Creation of divided skirts that cause a scandal in England.
Collaboration with the painter Jean Dunand: a long dress featuring a painted trompe-l’œil pleat.
First runway show of the entire collection at Saks in New York.
The Couture House expands to include 400 employees spread over eight ateliers. The salons now include a couture ready-to-wear boutique.
The door plate becomes:
“Schiaparelli - pour le Sport,
pour la Ville, pour le Soir”.

Creation of the ‘mad cap’. The tiny knitted hat looking like a tube and taking whatever shape the wearer wants becomes an enormous worldwide success.

The first "aerodynamic line" is created by skilfully placed flounces.
Opening of Schiaparelli salons in London, at 6 Upper Grosvenor Street.
The company ‘Schiaparelli, Inc.’ is registered in the United States.
In a key innovation, Elsa Schiaparelli develops crushed rayon crepe (resembling tree bark), a forerunner of the wrinkled fabrics with permanent pleats used today.
Cover of TIME magazine. She is the first woman fashion designer to be given such an honour. The article presents her as “one of the arbiters of ultra-modern Haute Couture”
New innovation: rhodophane, a fabric as transparent and fragile as glass.
Launch of a collection of perfumes: Soucis, Salut and Schiap. The bottle is designed by Jean-Michel Frank.
First surrealist accessories (also called miniature accessories).
The Couture House moves to Hôtel de Fontpertuis, 21 place Vendôme: five floors, 98 rooms, a ground-floor boutique, interior design by Jean-Michel Frank in collaboration with Alberto Giacometti.
Creation of the press cuttings collage print (called the “newspapers’ print”). To celebrate the success of the Couture House’s new headquarters, Elsa cuts out related newspaper articles to create a print.
First use of plastic coloured zips.
First collaboration with Salvador Dali for a powder compact in the shape of a phone dial.
Schiaparelli, the only French Haute Couture representative at the first French Luxury Trade Fair in Moscow.
First fashion collaboration with Dali for coats and suits with bureau-drawer pockets.
First coat-shirt (youthful look for this item of clothing derived from a man’s shirt).
Collaboration with Meret Oppenheim for a metal and fur bracelet.
Licence in the United States for metal mesh bags.
Jewellery designs with Jean Schlumberger and Jean Clément.
Launch of Shocking.The perfume, whose bottle designed by artist Léonor Fini represents a dressmaker’s dummy following the curves of Mae West, decorated with porcelain flowers and a measuring tape in trompe l’oeil, is an unprecedented success. The fragrance is composed by the master-nose, Jean Carles.
Creation of the colour
“Shocking pink“
Collaboration with Jean Cocteau, whose drawings are featured on coats, evening ensembles and jewellery.
Wallis Simpson, the future Duchess of Windsor, chooses Schiaparelli for her trousseau.
Creation of Mae West’s costumes for the filmEvery Day's a Holiday.
Creation of the first short evening dresses in Haute Couture.
“Le Cirque“ (circus) collection. Elsa Schiaparelli was the first to give a theme to her collections from the early 1930s. Between looks, accessories and performances by circus artists, the presentation of the “Le Cirque” collection marks a new turning point, being the first runway show/entertainment comparable to one of today’s fashion shows.
The “Pagan”collection introduces the ivy leave shape that is to become a key element of Schiaparelli’s aesthetic.
The “Zodiac”, collection launches Ursa Major. The Great Bear is Elsa Schiaparelli’s favourite constellation as it echoes the shape of the beauty marks of her left cheek.
Launch of the fragrance Sleeping.
Creation of the American branch of ‘Parfums Schiaparelli’, whose head office at the Rockefeller Center is decorated by Jean-Michel Frank.
"Commedia Dell' Arte" Collection.
"Music" Collection.
Launch of the men’s fragrance Snuff.
"Cash & Carry" Collection. First use of camouflage in Haute Couture. Creation of a jumpsuit with large zips and maxi pockets (intended to hold the equivalent of a handbag) and suits with integrated bags to pre-empt the air raids. The are called the ‘siren suits’. tailleurs-sirènes
Because of WWII, the Couture House’s workforce is reduced to 150. The remaining staff only work every other week on a reduced salary, to allow as many people as possible to keep their jobs.
Credits :
1931: Tennis professional Lili de Alvarez © Underwood & Underwood/Corbis ; Elsa Schiaparelli © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP/telimage - 2014 ; 1932: Katharine Hepburn © The Kobal Collection/Bachrach, Ernest ; 1935: Press cuttings collage prints © Getty Images/Sasha ; 21 place Vendôme © Ministère de la Culture - Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / François Kollar ; 1936: Model wearing Schiaparelli by Cecil Beaton © Condé Nast Publications Inc ; 1937: Duchess of Windsor by Cecil Beaton courtesy of the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s ; Woman’s evening coat courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art ; Woman’s evening dress courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art ; Christian Bérard, Le Cirque, 1938 © Adagp, Paris 2015; 1939: Patchwork Coat © Philadelphia Museum of Art/CORBIS(DG) ; Wool jumpsuit © Hulton Deutsch Collection/Corbis.
First mermaid silhouette in Haute Couture.
The ‘hard chic’ jacket is softened with folk accessories such as Finnish embroidered belts.
A new way to conceive eveningwear: chic and practical. Military-inspired jackets show big embroidered pockets. They become one of Schiaparelli’s signature garments.
Creation of the costumes for the play "Les Monstres Sacrés" by Jean Cocteau.
Elsa Schiaparelli signs a contract with the Columbia Lecture Bureau for a lecture tour across the United States. She wants to raise money for the children of free France with the theme “Clothes make the Woman”. Over two months, she is to give 42 lectures in 42 cities.
Creation of her last collection before leaving Paris for the rest of the war. One of its theme is focused on fruits and vegetables.
Elsa Schiaparelli puts her Couture House into the hands of her right-hand man so that the company can continue to maintain its economic and social role. In fact, as her status as an Italian in Paris is becoming risky, she sets off to live in New York until 1945 and continues to help France through many initiatives across the Atlantic.
Elsa Schiaparelli returns to her Couture house in July and presents her new collection in September.
Participation in the “Théatre de la Mode” exhibition with the aim of relaunching Haute Couture.
Pierre Cardin joins the studio for a few months.
Launch of the fragrance Le Roy Soleil,
whose bottle and advertising are designed
by Salvador Dali.
Creation of the Constellation wardrobe (six dresses, one reversible coat, and three folding hats, all under 12 lbs).This travel wardrobe causes a sensation because it anticipates the emancipation of women and their more frequent trips.
Creation of the legendary design with a jet-embroidered pink bow.
The perfume activity is such that a factory is built in the suburbs of Paris.
Hubert de Givenchy is hired as creative director of the Schiaparelli boutique. He is to stay four years before launching his own couture house.
Creation of contemporary eveningwear: a simple black silk jersey turtle-neck sweater contrasts with a full skirt in plaid flounces.
Launch of the fragrance Zut (whose bottle represents Mistinguett’s legs dropping her skirt).
Despite the strike of part of her ateliers, Elsa Schiaparelli presents her collection with designs showing pins, fabric swatches and no buttonholes. The collection’s daring approach and youthful style make it a big success.
Creation of the “Forbidden fruit” dress: an evening dress playing with underwear in trompe l’oeil. An embroidered bra seems to come out of an asymmetrical strapless dress.
First seamless draped dress in Haute Couture.
Cover of Newsweek
with the headline Schiaparelli "The Shocker".
1940: Woman's dinner jacket courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art ; Model wearing Schiaparelli by Cecil Beaton © Condé Nast Publications Inc ; 1941: Woman's dinner jacket courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art ; 1945: Elsa Schiaparelli holding large hat © Bettmann/CORBIS ; 1947: Dinner suit and headdress by Schiaparelli © Condé Nast/Horst Estate ; 1949: Evening dress © Getty Images/Nina Leen.
First tuxedo dress in Haute Couture.
Experimentation on diagonal buttoning.
Schiaparelli plays with soft and hard fabrics in suits and gowns.
Schiaparelli ready-to-wear licence in the United States.
First charity fashion show in Beverly Hills.
Creation of graphic pleated dresses. The New York Times describes the collection as decidedly focused on the modern world rather than the past.
Creation of the "2-en-1" dress: an asymmetrical dress where the left part in taffetas shows a voluminous contour while the right part features an embroidered fitted shape.
Bejewelled glasses in fringed cellophane and tortoise shell.
New licences in the United States: lingerie as "Schiaparelli couture lingerie" and dolls.
Philippe Venet joins the atelier tailleur for a year.
First licence for designer sunglasses from a Haute Couture house. Visionary, Elsa Schiaparelli anticipates a trend and a business strategy that no brand ignores today.
Creation of the “inverted heart” neckline strapless gown.
Launch of the fragrance
Succès Fou.
Schiaparelli plays with oversize accessories such as a giant bee brooch.
Creation of
the oversized
The “Caressing line” enhances the body.
Creation of the dégradé silk “angel hair ” coat.
Signature of 11 licences in the United States. In total, 18 millions items with the Schiaparelli label will be sold this year.
Licence for foldable glasses.
Expansion of these licences to men’s ready-to-wear and ties.
Creation of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s costumes for John Huston’s film Moulin Rouge.
Elsa Schiaparelli decides to close her Couture House and devotes herself to her autobiography Shocking life.
Parfums Schiaparelli
continues its activity.
Credits :
1951: Schiaparelli Pleated Evening Gown by Horst P Horst © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis ; 1952: Schiaparelli Dress with Venus de Milo Drapery © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis ; Black bouclé shetland stole with oversized insect pin © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis ; 1954: Elsa Schiaparelli © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis.
Acquisition of the
Schiaparelli archives and rights.
Reopening of the Couture House at Hôtel de Fontpertuis, 21 place Vendôme, in the very place where Elsa left it.
Farida Khelfa is appointed ambassador for the House.
In May, inauguration of the "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
In July, tribute to Elsa in a unique Haute Couture collection designed by Monsieur Christian Lacroix.
E In September, Marco Zanini is appointed creative director. He is in charge of Haute Couture and Prêt-à-Couture until late 2014.
In January, the first Haute Couture
runway show since 1954,
is presented during
Paris Haute Couture week.
Credits :
2006: Elsa Schiaparelli © Ministère de la Culture - Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / François Kollar ; 2012: Farida Khelfa by Peter Lindbergh ; 2013: Christian Lacroix by Jean-Paul Goude courtesy Vanity Fair US.
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