PARIS Schiaparelli sprang back to life as a shrewdly eccentric fashion brand on Monday, honoring 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 humor 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 jewelry, 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-colored 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 Gaultier said.
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 MacPherson.
($1 = 0.7376 euros)
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Ruth Pitchford)