There’s nothing the fashion pack enjoys more than a designer debut – so the presentation of Bertrand Guyon’s first collection for the recently revived Schiaparelli label was guaranteed a good turnout. The sight of Meg Ryan’s wavy blond bob in the front row confirmed it as a bit of a moment; the Hollywood star is not the sort of celebrity who tips up to any old catwalk show.
In the 1930s, Elsa Schiaparelli had a hand in the creation of so many fashion staples – from jumpsuits to culottes – and worked with Salvador Dali on surreal creations such as the famous dress painted with lobsters. Guyon did not go down the zany route, though, to pay his respects. Monday’s show was more about fabric and technical accomplishment over anything too zany: a dark-green satin trouser suit embroidered with gold stucco, luxurious brocade coats in “Turkey red” and onyx, multi-coloured minks, tweed suits, cashmere culottes.
There were eccentric touches, such as a picture of Elsa’s face on a fur skirt and a strapless gown made of silk faille and organza painted with what show notes described as an “unfinished” classical decor.
Schiaparelli may not be a household name today, but she was a force of nature in her day. Coco Chanel’s biggest rival back then, she preceded Miuccia Prada’s brainy, subversive ugly-chic by half a century. Over the past few years, Diego Della Valle (the Italian CEO of Tod’s) has overseen efforts to relaunch the house. The first revival show was designed by Christian Lacroix, the next two by Marco Zanini. Last season, Zanini departed and the collection was conceived by the in-house design team. Guyon’s appointment was announced in April.
Also at the Hotel d’Evereux were French-Algerian actor and supermodel Farida Khelfa – a brand ambassador and muse to Schiaparelli – resplendent in the house’s signature shade, le shocking pink. Guyon’s former employers, Valentino bosses Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, were there too, now playing a supportive role, proving that fashion is not all back-stabbing and hauteur.
Wallis Simpson was the ultimate jolie-laide Schiaparelli customer, and there was definitely a touch of her spirit in the collection, particularly in the sumptuous midnight blue velvet dresses embroidered with crystals. Some might say that the 1940s vibe felt a little too strong at times – particularly as the models’ hair was braided into the shape of victory rolls. The final look, though, was the picture all the well-heeled crowd wanted to Instagram: a flowing, backless chiffon dress in Schiaparelli’s signature shocking pink, a timeless and very red carpet-appropriate take on the trope the house is most famous for.