Meet Schiaparelli's new designer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 9:58am

When PR hound and fashion victim Edina Monsoon, the character from British comedy and fashion-world parody Absolutely Fabulous, famously said - "It's Lacroix, sweetie, Lacroix!" - nobody knew it would ring so true 20 years on.

After years of eagerly waiting to learn who would be named the new designer at Schiaparelli since Tod's Group chief Diego Della Valle acquired the sleepy couture house in 2007, it was finally announced last Wednesday that Lacroix it is.

Storied designer Christian Lacroix will be heading Schiaparelli's first couture collection this July, according to a statement from the Italian luxury group. The appointment is a major coup for the label - and a marriage of two fashion icons.

Elsa Schiaparelli was an Italian designer based in Paris who mixed with surrealist artists such as Salvador Dali, collaborating with them to create breathtaking fashion and jewellery. Her eccentric designs and rise to fame in the 1920s made her an arch-rival of Coco Chanel, who championed a more sober, classic and androgynous chic.

Schiaparelli's whimsical and wild aesthetic would go on to influence designers long after her death and the label's long period of inactivity. The likes of Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier looked to Schiaparelli for inspiration.

When I interviewed the couture house's spokeswoman, French-Algerian supermodel Farida Khelfa, in Paris last month, she was tight-lipped about who would rise to the post. It was difficult to find someone with the stature and talent to carry the torch. But Lacroix, a fashion doyen in his own right, is the perfect fit.

Lacroix's background in historical costumes meant that he made a career from fantastical over-the-top fashions. It was the antithesis of the minimalism that would come in the '90s. Reaching an apex in the late '80s and '90s, his style found a natural home in couture, but unfortunately his label folded in 2009 after consistent financial woes.

His latest role is Lacroix's third wind, after two major breaks in fashion design during his career. And with the financial backing of the Tod's powerhouse, this new partnership has excited fashion fans and industry insiders alike.

I can already imagine him feeling right at home in Elsa Schiaparelli's atelier on the Place Vendôme in Paris. It is here where Lacroix will host couture clients as well as launch their prêt-à-couture concept.

With Dali sketches, a lobster-shaped chest of drawers by designer Vincent Darré, chairs by Giò Ponti, a rug by Fernand Léger and a sphinx sculpture, this is not your average white-box atelier.

There are very high hopes for Lacroix's debut. And as Edina Monsoon would say, it might be as good a time as any to break out the Bolly.