Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Schiaparelli and Prada

So, as I mentioned last week, one of the highlights of my New York Trip was getting to see the most excellent fashion exhibition "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations" at the Met. I really cannot overstate how much I loved this show. The critics are apparently quibbling that it's not really a Major Blockbuster like last year's Alexander McQueen show was, but you know what? Really? Who cares. As far as I'm concerned it's flat-out glorious.

Utterly delightful clothes by two top-notch designers, compared and contrasted in all sorts of interesting, beautiful, and thought-provoking ways? In my book, that's enough and more than enough.

And that's not to mention the super smart curation. I'm actually kind of amazed and impressed that someone, somewhere, had the good sense to give such an in-your-face curatorial vision free reign. All kinds of interesting devises are employed to make various points about the differences and similarities between the two designers' work--and yet it's never too obvious, never dumbed-down.

In truth, you're being hit over the head with several themes (including the old chestnut: is fashion art? which is tackled in such a bold up-front way as to effectively preempt any of the usual boring conversations folks generally insist on having on that topic every time a fashion exhibition is mounted at a major museum--clever!) and yet it's such an entirely salutatory experience that you're left without the tiniest trace of bother from the buffeting.

The most striking of these curatorial elements is the video: a film by none other than that most joyfully exuberant of directors Baz Luhrmann that pairs the real Miuccia Prada with actress Judy Davis playing Elsa Schiaparelli for a series of "impossible conversations" across a long table. It's the first thing you see when you walk into the show, and then bits and pieces of it reappear throughout.

It's utterly weird and wonderful and, as I say, it seems amazingly lucky that whoever thought up this wacky idea was allowed to get away with it.

And then, of course, there's an utterly fabulous book (with all kinds of fancy production bells and whistles, naturally) which I now, just as naturally, covet.

My one and only quibble with this otherwise excellent show is: Where's the lobster dress? Arguably Schiaparelli's most famous creation (other than the introduction of hot pink into the public consciousness), the collaboration with Salvador Dali, above, is only referenced in the show in a grainy black and white photograph.

The dress is not only a legend in its own right, but Prada has also created a tribute to it--as worn above by the inimitable Ms. Wintour--so the absence of either gown from the show does seem like a pretty glaring omission. You've got to figure there's a story there. But you know what, that's ok. What's fashion, after all, without a little imagined backstage drama? The show is utterly lovely and I utterly loved it, lobster dresses or no.

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