* Designer was famous for lobster dress, artist contacts
* Brand revival is part of trend in fashion industry
* Collection shown is first since 1954
By Astrid Wendlandt
PARIS, Jan 20 Schiaparelli sprang back to life
as a shrewdly eccentric fashion brand on Monday, honouring its
founder Elsa by using its first collection since 1954 to mock
convention in the tradition of her lobster dress.
The fashion brand, owned by Italian luxury king Diego Della
Valle, is applying a tried-and-tested recipe in the fashion
world of resuscitating dormant labels with a new designer,
drawing on its history and heritage as a marketing tool.
With a provocative sense of humour to outdo today's Lady
Gaga, Elsa Schiaparelli dared women to be bold in the pre-war
Paris of the 1930s, collaborating with artists such as Salvador
Dali and Jean Cocteau.
She was the first to fuse fine art with fashion, attracting
a clientele including the Duchess of Windsor, Marlene Dietrich
and Joan Crawford.
Now Della Valle, whose Tod's brand is suffering from logo
fatigue like rivals Gucci and Louis Vuitton, wants to replicate
the success of Roger Vivier, a once-sleepy shoe brand which has
become Tod's group's fastest growing label.
Schiaparelli's memorable works included knitted sweaters
with trompe-l'oeil bows and neckties, as well as suits with
embroidered lip-shaped pockets.
Della Valle acquired Schiaparelli in 2006 and had to wait
for six years for the lease at the designer's original atelier
on Place Vendome in central Paris to be free again. Last year,
he appointed as its creative director Marco Zanini, who was at
Rochas and previously worked with Versace and Dolce & Gabbana.
To lead the brand on the business side, Della Valle hired
Camilla Schiavone, who used to head L'Oreal's luxury perfume
division in Italy.
Once the label generates sufficient sales and builds up its
profile, the plan is to branch out into accessories, perfume and
jewellery, model Farida Khelfa and the brand's spokeswoman said
at the time of its first official re-launch in 2012.
Khelfa said Schiaparelli would participate in Paris fashion
week in March as it planned to develop a concept called "Pret a
couture" or ready-to-wear garments fitted for customers.
Examples of flourishing fashion revivals include Lanvin
under the stewardship of Alber Elbaz, Balenciaga under Nicholas
Ghesquiere - now at LVMH's Louis Vuitton - and Carven
under the creative leadership of Guillaume Henry.
Monday's Schiaparelli show included dark men's blazers over
soft-coloured taffeta dresses, ultra-short embroidered bolero
jackets, long polka dot bustier dresses and unexpected mixes of
fabrics such as feathers with tulle and silk.
Pieces will sell for between 15,000 and 30,000 euros (euros
($20,300-$40,700), said Andrea Della Valle, Diego's brother,
also present at the show.
"This is a new Schiaparelli in the sense that it is very
feminine and surrealist at the same time with all those
contrasts and unexpected details," French designer Jean-Paul
The show was also applauded by Valentino designers Maria
Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, as well as former first
French lady and singer Carla Bruni and ex-super model Elle
($1 = 0.7376 euros)
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Ruth Pitchford)