Since the haute couture shows last July, Marco Zanini was let go from Schiaparelli; he spent just two seasons at the Diego Della Valle-owned revival brand. The announcement that today’s runway show would be the work of the in-house team wasn’t exactly greeted with open arms. There’s a tendency to discount collections designed by committee. A singular point of view can get diluted fast. Beyond that, there’s the fact that a new guy (or, less likely, a new girl) will come in before the next round, rendering this one quickly irrelevant. All that taken into consideration, this morning’s show was a happy surprise.
Schiaparelli may be operating without Zanini, whose madcap sensibilities seemed such an inspired fit for the house, but it has something else going for it: brand ambassador Farida Khelfa, the model and former muse to the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and Azzedine Alaïa and the photographer Jean-Paul Goude. In an ode of sorts to Elsa, who was famous for collaborating with artists, but also apparently liked to incorporate live performance into her fashion happenings, Khelfa enlisted Goude—he of the Kim Kardashian West Paper magazine spread—to design today’s set. Its shocking pink Mylar walls vibrated to the sounds of the Parisian choir Les Chérubins. The show was a sensory-rich experience; you saw, heard, and felt it.
As for the clothes, they couldn’t match the irrepressibility of Zanini’s last collection, but that was sort of the point. The design team reined in some of his exuberances around silhouette, fabric, and prints, and instead zeroed in on the surrealism essential to Schiaparelli’s oeuvre. A pair of gloved hands “unfastened” a paste crystal necklace on the collection’s most subtly sensational piece, an electric green long-sleeved sheath; trompe l’oeil ribbons crisscrossed a silver sequin tank dress; and hearts pierced by Cupid’s bows, a fave Schiap motif, appeared on a bra top and matching high-waisted tuxedo trousers worn with a neatly tailored cropped bolero. Stephen Jones was back making hats; they added a familiar note of whimsy. This collection didn’t feel like a “tide us all over ’til the new creative director settles in.” Think of it more as a template for modernizing the Schiaparelli legend, and for making it attractive not just to couture customers, but also to the retailers that might someday carry the house’s would-be ready-to-wear line.