Costume Institute 2012 exhibit will feature the fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada

October 12, 2011
By Sheryl Blasnik

Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada

The Spring 2012 exhibit at the Costume Institute will showcase the work of two fashion icons, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada.  Set to open to the public from May 10th through August 19th, 2012 the exhibit will explore the lives of these two Italian designers from different eras.

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) was an Italian fashion designer. Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars.[1] Starting with knitwear, Schiaparelli’s designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dalí and Alberto Giacometti. Her clients included the heiress Daisy Fellowes and actress Mae West.

Miuccia Prada was born on May 10, 1949 in Milan, Italy. After graduating with a PhD in Political Science, Miuccia attended Teatro Picco to study and perform as a mime for five years. She was known to be a member of the Communist party and a champion for women’s rights during the seventies in Milan. In 1978 she entered into her family’s business of manufacturing luxury leather bags, a company established by her grandfather in 1913. Around the same time Miuccia met her now husband and business partner, Patrizio Bertelli. In 1985, Miuccia had her first hit when she designed a line of black, finely woven nylon handbags that instantly became a hit. By 1989, Miuccia designed and introduced her first women’s ready-to-wear collection that was critically acclaimed; men’s wear followed in 1995. Miu Miu was introduced in 1992 as a less expensive women’s wear line that was inspired by Miuccia’s personal wardrobe and nickname. Miuccia was honored with the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of American International Award in 1993. The following year she showed her collections in both New York’s and London’s fashion week, although she had already become a staple of Milan’s fashion week. Muiccia’s husband, Patrizio Bertelli, is still the predominant business force in the company who is responsible for the commercial side of products and Prada’s retail strategy. The design house has grown into an international conglomerate that added labels such as Fendi, Helmut Lang, Jill Sander, and Azzedine Alaia to its portfolio of brands. Muiccia Prada is known for her understated, minimalist, classic, cool, and comfortable luxury. The company has expanded into leather goods, shoes, fragrances, and apparel for both men and women. Prada currently has about 250 stores in 65 countries.

The title, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: On Fashion, is based on Umberto Eco’s books On Beauty and On Ugliness, which explore the philosophy of aesthetics that have informed our sensibilities from the classical world to modern times. Videos in the galleries of simulated conversations between Schiaparelli and Prada will follow the book’s paradigm, and will be organized by topics such as On Art, On Politics, On Women, On Creativity, and more.

Given the role Surrealism and other art movements play in the designs of both Schiaparelli and Prada, it seems only fitting that their inventive creations be explored here at the Met,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Schiaparelli’s collaborations with Dalí and Cocteau as well as Prada’s current Fondazione Prada push art and fashion ever closer, in a direct, synergistic, and culturally redefining relationship.”

The exhibition will feature 80 designs from Elsa Schiaparelli from the late 1920s to the early 1950s and Miuccia Prada from the late 1980s to the present.  The exhibit will highlight how the past has impacted the present and how the present interprets the past. Masterworks from both designers will explore the relationship between fashion and culture.  A book by Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton will accompany the exhibition.

This year’s exhibit will open with a gala benefit taking place on May 7th.  The benefit committee will include honorary Chair Jeff Bezos (Founder and CEO of Amazon, lead sponsor) and co-chairs Carey Mulligan, Miuccia Prada, and Vogue’s Anna Wintour.

Further information can be found at the Met Museum’s website.

Sheryl Blasnik


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