Impossible Conversations: Preview of the stunning exhibition catalogue ‘Schiaparelli and Prada’

Schiaparelli and PradaSchiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations is the stunning new exhibition catalogue from The Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. A captivating exploration of the striking similarities between Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, the book features insightful texts and stunning photographs to create a ‘conversation’ between two iconic fashion designers. As advance copies have just arrived in the office, we thought we’d give you a little sneak peak…

After the success of the fabulous exhibition catalogue Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty last year, hopes were high here at the Yale London office for the Costume Institue’s follow up. Well, this morning advance copies of Schiaparelli and Prada arrived and we’re pleased to announce that it did not disappoint.

The first thing that stands out is the beautiful cover, juxtaposing stylish photography against a tactile design that resembles the blotting of lipstick. It makes the catalogue really stand out from the traditional glossy presentation style of fashion books.

Schiaparelli-and-Prada

Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations

The Met’s book (accompanying the exhibition of the same name at the Costume Institute) aims to tease out formal and conceptual similarities between the two iconic designers Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) and Miuccia Prada (b.1949). Upon first opening the book it is clear that we’re looking at something special. Striking photographs and text illustrate the parallels between the two designers, whilst a miniature booklet that is dispersed throughout the book, creates an imaginary ‘conversation’ between them.

Schiaparelli and Prada

Schiaparelli and Prada, with juxtaposing essays, photography and a 'conversation' between the two designers.

The main text features essays that correspond with the sections of the exhibition, illustrating the designers’ preferences for interesting textiles and prints, eccentric colour palettes, and a bold and playful approach to styling and accessories. Highlights include the chapters Ugly Chic, which reveals how both women subvert ideals of beauty and glamour by playing with good and bad taste through color, prints and textiles; Hard Chic, which explores the influence of uniforms and menswear to promote a minimal aesthetic that is intended to both deny and enhance femininity; and The Surreal Body which illustrates how both women affect contemporary images of the female body through Surrealistic practices such as displacement, playing with scale and blurring the boundaries between reality and illusion as well as the natural and the artificial.

Schiaparelli and Prada

Schiaparelli and Prada: Photographs alongside the painting 'The Break of Day' by surrealist painter Paul Delvaux

The miniature ‘conversation’ section offers a playful counterpoint, with snippets from advertisements, magazine articles and quotes from both designers. It even includes an imaginary conversation between Schiaporelli and Stalin.

This unconventional presentational style really brings the works of both designers to life. It’s a refreshing reaffirmation of the book as a physical object, and one I think the designers themselves would appreciate. Watch this space. We’ll be covering the exhibition and the publication of this lovely book in more depth over the coming weeks.

Schiaparelli and Prada

Schiaparelli and Prada: Back Cover

Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations is available in May from Yale University Press, but first editions are available to reserve now.

More Met Books from Yale.

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