Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Met’s ‘Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations’ Exhibit

Schiaparelli and Prada

This catalogue accompanies the exhibition 'Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute (10 May - 19 August 2012)

Although separated by time, Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli - both Italian, both feminists - share striking affinities in terms of their design strategies and fashion manifestoes. Presented as an intimate "conversation", Schiaparelli and Prada aims to tease out formal and conceptual similarities between the two designers.

Striking photographs and insightful texts will illustrate the parallels between the two, including their preferences for interesting textiles and prints, eccentric colour palettes, and a bold and playful approach to styling and accessories. Schiaparelli, in the 1920s through the 50s, and Prada, from the late 1980s to today, exploited the narrative possibilities of prints, sought out unconventional textiles, played with ideas of good and bad taste, and manipulated scale for surrealistic outcomes. Contemporary art plays a major role in the work of these inventive women - Schiaparelli in her famous collaborations with Dali and Cocteau, and Prada via her Fondazione Prada. Blending the historic with the contemporary, new technologies and unconventional modes of presentation will bring the masterworks of both designers together into a grand conversation between the most important women fashion designers to ever emerge from Italy.

The Met has posted a small preview of the exhibit on their website, as well as an outline of how it will be organized. The exhibition will be broken up into seven galleries, which will explore common themes in the designers’ works: Waist Up/Waist Down, Ugly Chic, Hard Chic, Naif Chic, The Classical Body, The Exotic Body, and The Surreal Body. For each theme, there will be a series of images and clothing items from each designer, inviting viewers to make comparisons between the two.

For example, the Waist Up/Waist Down gallery, will, according to The Met’s website, “look atSchiaparelli‘s use of decorative detailing as a response to restaurant dressing in the heyday of 1930s café society, while showing Prada’s below-the-waist focus as a symbolic expression of modernity and femininity,” via side by side comparisons of Schiaparelli’s fondness for ornate collars, and Prada’s proclivity for embellished skirts. Ugly Chic will “reveal how both women subvert ideals of beauty and glamour by playing with good and bad taste through color, prints, and textiles,” and will have a diptych of the designers’ more drab-looking duds. And so on.
The met has released sample image comparisons for each thematic category, and besides showcasing some seriously gorgeous clothing, you can also expect to see some familiar faces popping up in the photos. Models Daphne Groeneveld and Kate Upton can be seen modeling Prada’s creations, and we bet there’ll be more famous models to spot in the exhibit. Love magazine tweeted a photo of Upton in her Prada look earlier so we’re assuming the mag’s EIC Katie Grand is involved in the exhibit book. Which is a very good thing. (Sort of related: Upton looks gorgeous and totally pulls off Prada–a far cry from her standard skimpy Sports Illustratedfare–could this mean more high-fashion work is in store?)
An even better thing? You can now pre-order the exhibit’s book, Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations–and get a peek inside–on Yale Books.
Photos: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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