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“Set your ideas free and restore a sense of marvel without any control on the part of reason, beyond any aesthetic and moral preoccupation”: that is how André Breton, French poet and critic defined Surrealism art movement in 1924.
His artistic vision influenced by Freud’s theories, inspired such artists as Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Joan Mirò and Max Ernst. Developed between the Twenties and the Thirties in France, surrealism allowed for expressing irrational, non-standard and non-established norms. It affected painting, film, literature and naturally design and fashion.
First and unforgettable designer who introduced surrealistic trends into the fashion world was Italian aristocrat Elsa Schiaparelli. Her first collection presented in 1927 in Paris, was inspired by French designer Paul Poiret. It was a collection of sweaters with African motifs like snakes, anchors, lobsters and unusual ornaments.
She introduced new ideas like divided skirt (the prototype of the modern shorts), separate flesh-colored bathing suit, lingerie and symbolic jewelry. Schiaparelli collaborated with well-known writers, artists, photographers like Jean Cocteau or Jean Hugo, however the most remarkable was her cooperation with Salvador Dalí.
Dali invented for Schiaparelli unique masterpieces which are collected at the exhibition “Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design” at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, in 2007. Among the presented exhibits there is sofa shaped as the lips of actress Mae West, lobster phone, but also Schiaparelli’s designs such as the tear- dress or the shoe-hat.
Surrealist movement drives today’s fashion world and shows no sign of slowing. In Eighties Karl Lagerfeld designed corset hat and presented surrealistic collection with the pieces of clothing that were not supposed to be seen on top of the head. At the same time Franco Moschino known from surrealistic biases created collection with the tricolor and oversized elements.
Still today Moschino’s irony is visible in recent menswear collection in accessories like bowler hat or little décor roses on the pin-stripes. Jean Paul Gaultier expressed his surreal fondness by producing 954 costumes used in the film The Fifth Element by Luc Besson in Ninetieths.
In 2007 the Y’s Mandarina by Mandarina Duck in partnership with the famous Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto launched collection inspired with surrealistic items as part dress, jacket or dungarees, and part bag. In 2009 Agatha Ruiz De La Prada dedicated her winter collection to Dalí and the surrealist painters: Tristán Tzara, Meret Oppenheim, De Chirico, Magritte and Man Ray.
The most significant items from this collection: the piano dress, the cage dress and the umbrella dress which has been already exhibited at the Triennale in Milan and at other museums all over the world. Victor & Rolf the Dutch duet who started in 1993 are spokesmen for a new Surrealism that has buried the minimalism of the 1990s.
On their official website there is statement “We want to celebrate life as the world of your dreams” which underline well their works full of surrealistic elements like 3D coats with big statements dream, no presented in ‘NO’ fall winter collection in 2008/09 or surrealistic colorful dresses cut in unusual places to deconstruct all silhouette presented in ‘Cutting edge Couture’ spring collection in 2010.
They even express their surrealistic fascination in interior design of their store in Milan where every features are upside-down, with oak parquet on the ceiling and a chandelier sprouting from the floor. The same as Viktor & Rolf, Marni and Sonia Rykiel implemented the idea of deconstructing and reconstructing clothes.
Dolce & Gabbana in 2009/10 presented surrealistic influences and improved that creativity has no limits in the collection called ‘Heart Elsa Schiaparelli’. Sculpted Jackets, Shocking pink, platform shoes, shell-shaped necklaces referenced Salvatore Dali works and underlined surrealistic inspirations.
Also Miu Miu’s in Spring 2010 collection expressed surreal vision by coming back to innocence and evoking childhood. The last significant surrealist reminiscent ion was visible in Stella McCartney Spring Summer 2011 ad campaign. Nature inspired little dresses, printed with fruits and paired with oversized fruit pieces that act as outfits reminiscent cartoons.
It seems like as long as surrealism will inspire designers and artists, it will not be out of date. “(…) the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in “an absolute reality, a surreality.” (Andre Breton, Surrealist Manifesto, 1924)