I visited the MET to see the Schiaparelli and Prada “Impossible Conversations” exhibition and was curious to find which, if any, of these exhibited pieces had turned up at INA since the exhibition’s opening. A re-enacted video conversation between Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli structures the categories of the exhibition, as if Schiaparelli was alive and could speak to Miuccia in a private dining room, and that the conversation was a casual one eavesdropped upon by us.
Schiap designed decorative pieces for women during “café society,” as she called it, when women sat at cafes, their top-halves visible, their bottom-halves under the table.
Above: Crustacean Schiaparelli clip-on earrings, INA Soho
In the spirit of things, I wandered around, listening to off-handed conversations held in the museum amidst the displays, room to room. Schiaparelli’s emphasis on decoration led her to embroider the cuffs and collars of jackets with as much detail as her hats of red celluloid grapes and metal leaf chokers.
Above: Silk fuchsia dress embroidered with a sequin croquet set, by Chloe under the direction of Karl Lagerfeld during the 1980s, who most likely found inspiration in Schiaparelli's thematic embroidery. Refer to Schiap's pink blazer woven with circus horses in metallic threads and closed by acrobat buttons, in "Naif Chic".
In front of me on display in the “Naif Chic” section of the exhibition, Prada’s gray and black striped cotton canvas skirts with Baroque scrolls and pineapples are paired with banana-printed button-down shirts.
A woman exclaims, “This is just awful! What was Prada thinking? I mean, bananas?”
She looks around noticing that others have heard her. “Sorry,” she says.
Her friend objects, “I would love to wear bananas, if only I could!”
Above: Prada skirt of pink cotton canvas printed with Baroque scrolls and bananas, INA Soho
A young girl stares at Prada’s grey silk duchesse satin shorts printed with palm trees, and then in her own world, but aloud, says, “I am strangely drawn to these shorts.”
This Venetian printed canvas tote also has a mind for tourism, from Prada’s 2004 Spring/ Summer collection, INA Soho
Further down, in the “Surrealist Body” corridor, I encounter a black silk satin dress embroidered with pressed metal bottle tops. The lady beside me says, to her friend, "Well, I don't think they're bottle caps."
“It says here on the label, that, the material was inspired by recycled materials used in Africa.”
“I’m on the fence about the material’s origins.”
“And are you on the fence about the dress?”
“I'd say we're on the fence.”
“It's pretty interesting anyway. Different. Let’s say different.”
Above: Prada metal bottle-cap embroidered silk dress, INA Soho
A man and a woman look intently at trompe l'oeil pleats. “The fabric is flat, I say flat,” the lady repeats to her elderly husband.
“I see pleats all round,” says the man.
“No! There are no pleats in this skirt. Pleats have been printed onto the fabric of the skirt. This skirt, I tell you, has the appearance of having pleats.”
Above: Prada sheer skirt printed with naked women, from the Patricia Field collection, INA Noho
In “Waist Up/ Waist Down”, one man talks to another, “The color of the velvet jacket, is it forest green?”
“Hard to tell.”
The men compliment the collars of Schiaparelli’s many jackets, and the women can’t stop looking at the chandelier mules.
Above: Prada chandelier mule, clear crystal with acrylic heel, INA Nolita