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Inside the Exhibition: Schiaperelli and Prada – Impossible Conversations at The Met

From The Met comes Impossible Conversations, a look at the work of Elsa Schiaperelli and Miuccia Prada, two of fashion history’s most indispensible designers

Before heading to yesterday’s preview of Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations at The Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute, we couldn’t help but think about how challenging it must have been when trying to top last year’s record-breaking retrospective of the work of Alexander McQueen.

>>Related: Alexander McQueen’s record breaking Savage Beauty at The Met

And while the McQueen tribute celebrated the late designer’s deft hand at the theatrical nature of high-fashion, this year saw curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton mining through the genius work of two women designers, Elsa Schiaperelli and Miuccia Prada. Both of whom are considered to be the most influential designers of the past 100 years and share affinities beyond simply being Italian women in the field of design.

Wandering through the storied halls of the museum we were led to a series of beautifully rendered vignettes with each designers clothing assembled side by side as if to point out the obvious commonalities between the two women’s tastes and viewpoints. Divided into “Hard Chic,’ ‘Ugly Chic’ and by bottoms and accessories, the tableau reveals if anything both women’s desire to subvert beauty through both the sensual and the sublime along with the long-standing divide between good taste and bad taste through textiles, prints and ornamentation.

Prada F/W 2002-3 shot by David Sims

Known for bringing retro-inspired fashion to the forefront while juxtaposing references high & low with technological advancements and an urbane manner, Prada’s clothes bring about a rush of buzz with each new collection. Although more frequently than not, her boundary pushing experiments can be found both intriguing and sometimes polarizing. Her risk taking though, leaves everyone with baited breath as she is one of the top trend-setting designers of today -like it or not.

>>More: Prada

Notorious for her evocative soundbites, Prada has been dubbed the creator of ‘Geek Chic’ & ‘Ugly Chic’ while changing the way we live with a combination of nostalgia, intellect and bravura. Above, her transparent film noir inspired rain mac from 2002 (an all time favorite fantasy piece at FoS) sheds light on Prada’s other preoccupation, bourgeois, feminine elegance.

Elsa Schiaperell,1937, shot by Cecil Beaton

Grazing the floor and covered with ornate, often witty decorative motifs, Elsa Schiaperelli’s 30′s era designs effortlessly withstand the test of time and remain the epitome of feminine elegance in spirit and composition.

A champion of surreal minded fashion, Schiaperelli’s designs imposed a rich imagination come to life on her patrons with her iconic ‘shoe hats’ and ‘bug necklaces’ and encrusted lobster ornamentations to name a few. As her rival Coco Chanel set about to liberate women with approachable, menswear mined fashion in an attempt to define the growing masses of haute bourgeois clients in need of a new look strife with uniformity, Schiaperelli brought with her a thoroughly Italian minded sensibility through statement making, ostentatious and even challenging pieces that never let go of their femininity, much like Miuccia Prada’s designs.

Impossible Conversations Catalogue Cover

A glorious tome was produced exclusively for the exhibition featuring over 300 pages with 200+ glorious photographs old & new.

Gallery of Archival Photos + Museum Installations:

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Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations at The Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute runs from May 10–August 19, 2012. Visit MetMuseum.org

Published on May 08, 2012

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