It was against all the rules: huge shoulders on fragile figures; puffed up sleeves of fox or sable; prints of lowly creatures like moths, rats and squirrels; and off-kilter colours for slithering silken dresses, with a dash of shocking pink velvet.
This was Elsa Schiaparelli revitalised by Marco Zanini — a review of the 1930s/40s woman from a feminist point of view. It was credible, striking, occasionally lovely and a big step forward from the flat animal print bootees of last season’s debut.
‘It is my personal view on Parisian chic,’ said Marco Zanini, explaining his vision of ‘Schiap’s’ sophisticated eye and her desire to encourage women to show their individuality.
All that worked well for evening, which seems like Zanini’s forte. A satin dress falling like liquid over the body in a mix of hydrangea pink and mouse grey, or a bias-cut gown with squirrels scurrying over the surface, were charming. Add the funky and original hats of milliner Stephen Jones, and big furry pouch bags, a Schiap padlock buried in mink or sable.
Can whimsy be a winner? The problem was with the day clothes, where the giant shoulders suddenly turned 1970s and engulfed the fine cut, or looked drag queen dramatic, as in a coat sweeping the floor with a giant ‘ES’ embroidered at the shoulder.
The front row, cheering Zanini on, included Azzedine Alaïa, Inès de la Fressange with her daughter Violette, and Diego Della Valle, who is behind the Schiap revival.
What was perfectly achieved was the perfume of haute couture and the sense of the best nimble Paris fingers can create: exquisite silvered embroidery from Lesage; intriguing jewellery from Maison Gripoix; delicate feathers from Lemarié.
The details were more effective than the sum of the parts. But the show felt fresh, quirky and interesting.