Did you know that Elsa Schiaparelli introduced, what we today call “shocking pink”? It was her signature colour as a fashion designer. Although, her journey has not all been sunshines and cloudfree skies.


A Young Rebel

She was born in Rome in 1890. When she got enrolled at the University she studied philosophy and wrote a book that her parents found all too controversial which resulted in sending her to a convent. She there began a hunger strike that lead to her release when she was 22 years old.

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Caring, Curious and Goal-oriented

After these events, Schiaparelli decided to go to London where she worked as a nanny. She met her first husband and moved to Nice for a while, before settling down in New York. There she got associated with some artists such as Francis Picabia which lead her to start working in Picabia’s store for French fashion in New York. When she later on got divorced she decided to move to Paris and started to design her own clothes, with encouragement from the man who’s been told to be one of the world’s first fashion designers – Paul Poiret.

Then it was time for Schiaparelli to start her own business. She debuted in 1927 with surrealistic sweaters, which came to be some of her signature pieces. When the collection was launched, she was featured in Vogue Paris. 5 years later the business was up and running and she had over 400 employees and offered everything from sportswear to ready-to-wear.

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A Spanish Influence

When she became one of the designers that everyone spoke of, at the time being, she started experimenting with more avantgarde fashion together with artists such as Salvador Dalí. She did not only design clothes now, but also seatings for cars and patterns for interior.

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Embraced by Hollywood

During World War II, Schiaparelli moved back to NYC where she remained throughout the time of the war. She did not quit working though, but kept on designing for films such as Moulin Rouge and Mae West and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

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In the End…

When she then returned to Paris she quickly discovered that fashion had changed. She needed to declare bankruptcy in 1954, but she was not miserable. She spent the rest of her life traveling between Tunisia and Paris and kept on filling the world with her energy.

She passed away 83 years old in 1973.

Source: The Business of Fashion




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