Monday morning started with the debut of yet another designer at the helm of Schiaparelli: Bertrand Guyon. Not a household name and one little known outside of Paris fashion circles; but if the choice of designer by the French maison is not a spectacular one, it is undeniably savvy. 50-year-old Guyon started his career at Givenchy working with Hubert himself, and later with John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, before moving on to Christian Lacroix before landing, in 2007, a design direction position at Valentino. For his first Schiaparelli collection, he got his inspiration both from the people surrounding Elsa – Lee Miller who once modelled for the house, the painters Bérard et Vertès who created prints for her – and also from rather a different character: Leigh Bowery. His influence was not such an obvious one, except in the bold colour palette of shocking pink, crimson, silver blue and gold.
The show opened with a chinoiserie-embroidered shantung suit - very Josef Von Sternberg - that immediately set the mood. Surreal elements were scattered here and there: a Dali-inspired eye-shaped crystal brooch pinned on a velvet dress, a brass handbag in the shape of a manicured hand worn with a colourful mink skirt. Guyon proved a penchant for structured tailoring, which at times became a little heavy under the weight of brocade fabrics and long hems. But his work on flou had an indisputable expertise and a clear desirability factor. A pale blue organdy dress printed with feathers and another one with flowers and embroidered petals bore the Schiaparelli DNA in a surprisingly effortless way while staying modern, and a bias-cut golden velvet gown with crisscrossing straps in the back would have looked as good on Katharine Hepburn back in the day as it would today on Cate Blanchett. That’s the kind of work we want to see more of - pieces that truly revive the unique and ingenious spirit of Schiap, and by doing so make the existence of the maison not only legitimate, but necessary to today’s haute couture landscape.