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Shocking Life

Thursday 15 September 2011
Words Spindle

Spindle is all about Emerging talent, and my advice to all emerging talent no matter what your creative pathway may be, is that you cannot look to the future, to the new, without looking back to the past, to the extraordinary talent of unsung heroes whose talents surpass even todays designers. One of these extraordinaire is the surrealist designer Elsa Schiaparelli whose autobiography Shocking Life is my book of the month.

Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the leading designers of the 1920s and 30s, who unless you have a strong yearning for fashion it would be likely that her voice and vision would have be lost  to the past. Yet she was the first to use the Shoulder pad, to capitalise on the use of animal prints and shocking pink and most importantly in my eyes the first person to use the common zip on clothing. Imagine a world without the ubiquitous zip, however at the turn of the 20th century the zip who many claimed to invent was in fact feared by all as an evil product of the mechanical era to the extremities of it being a major tool in Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World. Yet seeing far beyond her contemporary’s Schiaparelli took the cold metal teeth and used them as couture features.

However this autobiography is far beyond fashion, beyond the collaborations with Salvador Dali where they created Lobster and skeleton dresses, Perspex insect necklaces and lamb chop hats. It is a story of one woman’s rise of being a poverty stricken single mother to being the designer of the stars. The way she writes alone is beyond compare, she writes with true passion and heartbreak, with no ghost writing present in so many ‘auto’ biographies.

I would not wish to ruin her story by divulging all, however I wish to leave you with what I feel is beautiful words that I believe will echo and resonate through everyone’s minds;

When you take off your clothes, your personality also undresses and you become quite a different person-more true to yourself and to your real character, more conscious, sometimes more cruel…. the realization of this potent inner fear of being crushed and deprived of one’s personality, and the obligation of baring ones inner life to strangers, left my soul wrapped in distress….’

 

Shocking Life

The Autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli

V&A Publication

£8.99