Surreal Fashion


21 Monday 21st February 2011

This isn't just about flapper dresses and boas, though there is plenty of that about – fringe and sequins at Temperley, and fringe made of feathers at Matthew Williamson.

Looks from AW 2011 at Matthew Williamson, left, and Temperley, right.

There is also an intriguing surrealist influence at play, which is especially noticeable in the form of nods to Elsa Schiaparelli, the Italian designer and taste-maker. If you’ve ever identified a colour as ‘shocking pink’, then you owe it to her. Though she dominated the art deco scene, her fame was relatively short-lived, outshone by the indulgent reams of fabric and exaggerated hourglass figures of Christian Dior’s revolutionary ‘New Look’ collection and the astronomical success of Schiaparelli’s archrival, Gabrielle Chanel.

In her hey-day, Schiaparelli collaborated with Surrealist artists for many of her most famous pieces – Dali inspired her shoe hat, and the famous 'tear' dress, which bears a strong resemblance to the hugely popular cat print Miu Miu showed for SS 2010.

If Miuccia Prada has been leafing through ‘Shocking Life’, then it seems that Elsa’s influence continued into Prada’s awesomely stripey SS 2011 collection, where Schiaparelli’s gregarious eyewear seems an embryo version of Prada’s loopy plastic sunglasses.

From the same collection, these earrings are inspired by the 1920s dancer Josephine Baker, who became famous for her risqué ‘banana dance’.

But these dancers also reminiscent of Schiaparelli's circus jacker, whose carousel ponies cavort on shocking pink while acrobat buttons tumble down the front.

David Kona shares his new love of polka dots with Marc Jacobs, but he also shares his passion for faces on clothing with Schiaparelli.

Schiaparelli embodied a vision of fashion that isn’t really compatible with the realities of production and profit that characterize the fashion industry. She was once quoted as saying, ‘Fashion is born by small facts, trends, or even politics, never by trying to make little pleats and furbelows, by trinkets, by clothes easy to copy, or by the shortening or lengthening of a skirt.’ is being maintained as a bizarre and high-budget shrine – but isn’t clear what for. Keep your fingers crossed, perhaps the legendary house is planning a comeback sometime soon!

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at and we will respond asap.