The Fashion Designer Who Made Dalí’s Art Wearable

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By that point, Schiaparelli was well on her way to becoming the most influential fashion designer of the period. A trompe l’oeil design for a hand-knit sweater, which mimicked a square collar and red bow, had kickstarted her career in 1927 when it was picked up by an American buyer from Macy’s. By 1932, she was managing 400 employees who churned out as many as 8,000 garments per year.

Dalí and Schiaparelli’s partnership was a natural one, according to Hine. “On the artistic side, they shared real daring,” he notes. “They shared this sense of doing astonishing things that would shock and amaze.”

The artist was so impressed by the designer’s work that, in his book The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (1942), he opined that the second half of the 1930s was defined “not by the surrealist polemics in the café on Place Blanche, or by the suicide of my great friend René Crevel, but by the dressmaking establishment, which Elsa Schiaparelli was about to open on the Place Vendôme.” With characteristic humility, he continued: “Here new morphological phenomena occurred; here the essence of things was to become; transubstantiated; here the tongues of fire of the Holy Ghost of Dalí were going to descend.”

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