Impossible Conversations At The Met

By Layla L’Obatti

On May 10th a new MET fashion exhibit opened, featuring the work of Miuccia Prada alongside what some consider her modern day counterpart Elsa Schiaparelli.


For this column I’ll focus on the latter, Schiaparelli. Her name may not be as internationally known as her one time “rival” Chanel, but this Italian designer with a heavy Surrealist influence has left an indelible mark on the fashion world. Her work, often based on collaborations with artists, most notably Salvador Dali, will be sure to influence a new generation of designer. I believe her more commercially viable designs featuring tromp l’oeil have an interesting connection to today’s modern print technology.  Even before her exhibit we have begun to see “printed lace” and other tromp l’oeil designs emerge everyday as advancements in digital and engineered prints expand our ability to play with realism and even surrealism.  A key characteristic of successful tromp l’oeil is its ability to infuse functional fashion with the whimsy and irony of art, and with the MET platform we may see these trends emerging on catwalks in the seasons following this exhibit. Schiaparelli used tromp l’oeil with the proper bit of tongue in cheek in everything from hats that look like shoes to perfume bottles and “scarves knitted into sweaters”.   The breadth of work her designs cover will be of interest to everyone from ready to wear, knitwear and accessory designers to packaging and print artists.


More interesting to some than the period pieces and their historical and current relevance, will be their pairing and juxtaposition alongside what some may consider Schiaparelli’s modern day counterpart, Miuccia Prada.  The pairing draws on some striking similarities in their work, their viewpoints, and to me the titles of different portions of the exhibit: “ugly chic”, “the surreal body” gives a hint at how the curators plan to lay out the exhibit as well what parallels they will draw between the work of these two prolific designers.

The exhibit will be open to the public between May 10th and August 19th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, for more information:

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