Style Check: fashion and surrealism

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 2:58pm

Most designers will tell you that some of the mystique surrounding fashion is down to the fantasy factor.

We see normal people every day in normal clothes wearing normal expressions. But we look to fashion to have our minds blown, to marvel at the unattainable. The pages of Vogue might not do the job if instead of statuesque Bambis, we saw Jenny from next door modelling Prada's latest. Even as a proponent of practical fashion, I see that the allure of this billion-dollar industry often rides on the dramatic and the spectacular.

Surrealists, none more so than the late, great Salvador Dali, have made for a rich pool of style inspiration. Lancel, a brand that is relatively conservative, dedicated a whole collection to the artist, called the Daligramme, with the co-operation of Dali's trustees.

Long before Lady Gaga there were others who took the unconventional and surreal and clothed themselves in it. The late fashion journalist Anna Piaggi was one. One of the most famous is the Italian-style eccentric Elsa Schiaparelli, once a friend of Dali and a bitter rival of Coco Chanel.

Schiaparelli's return to the fashion landscape has been largely due to her eponymous fashion house's acquisition by Tod's president, Italian mover and shaker Diego Della Valle. During Paris fashion week, I visited Schiaparelli's Place Vendome Maison, restored by Della Valle.

Surrealist design pieces, art and furniture were everywhere - the fantastical was evidently where her inspiration lay. No one has been appointed to helm the eccentric label, but whoever takes the job will certainly attract attention. Remember, before Gaga's meat dress, there was Schiaparelli and Dali's skeleton dress.

If wearing lobsters or telephones on your head isn't your bag, there are labels that reference surrealism but don't go all out, as Loewe's spring-summer 2013 collection showed. It was one of Stuart Vevers' best shows, and was inspired by the free-spirited Gala, Dali's wife.

A muse to the surrealist movement, Gala had a distinctive style. Vevers' hooded tops and manly big jackets were paired with a delicate lace effect which touched on Gala's sensuality. The look provided inspiration for an accessible way to reference the fantastical world of the surrealists.