• Sanjali Verma

Revolutionising Rivalry

At times, a rivalry between two evokes a hunger to surpass each other.

Coco Chanel invented the "little black dress" and designed the classic collarless suit that still bears her name. Elsa Schiaparelli, fashion's first Surrealist designer, is an architect of wearable art. Their dresses revolutionized women's fashion, but Chanel and Schiaparelli were fierce rivals as their fashion houses fought to reign over the world of women's wear. Tawdry tales of their bitter feud were bubbling behind the scenes. Chanel and Schiaparelli competed for a similar clientele, women with discerning taste and personal style.

A closer look at Chanel

Channel opened her first boutique in Paris in 1920. In the following decade, she introduced the little black dress. The colour used for mourning was now modern and chic. The Chanel suit followed with a collarless jacket and a fitted skirt that helped women to bid adieu to the rib-crushing corsets of a bygone era.

Luxury meant being comfortable, Coco said -who was now very well established.

Sneak peek into Schiaparelli

The world of finer taste is what Schiaparelli had been born into, and soon she was swirling among the social circle of the art world in Paris, London, and New York, where she began working at a fashion boutique. She returned to Paris and began designing heavily influenced by the "avant-garde" movements at the time. Her debut sweaters with knitted Surrealist Trompe L'oeil images became a trademark, and other designers quickly took notice.

These two women were said to often smear each other behind closed doors but the rivalry only appeared to fuel their work.

Schiaparelli's friends in the art world were frequent collaborators and she designed a dress embroidered with a line drawing by Jean Cocteau while hiring Salvadore Dali to create some of her most memorable fabrics.

World War II and their Respective Comebacks

World war II hit both fashion houses hard. Schiaparelli closed her doors in 1954 but continued to design. Chanel shut her shops as the Depression knocked. At the age of 70, she made a comeback. Her return was triumphant and her legacy revived. A decade after her death in 1971, Karl Lagerfeld took over Chanel, which still reigns as one of the most successful fashion houses today. On the other hand, Schiaparelli was unable to come back after the War and eventually died in 1973. Finally, in 2007, Italian luxury goods tycoon Diego Valle bought her fashion house, and gradually Schiaparelli entered the red carpets first, followed by the whimsical comeback through the Haute-Couture Spring-Summer 2014 collection show.

While Chanel and Schiaparelli may have been bitter rivals, the legacies of both women have inspired generations of designers and continue to influence till today!

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