Bertrand Guyon, who made his Schiaparelli debut with an haute couture collection for Fall 2015, has exited the company. “The House Schiaparelli is grateful to Bertrand Guyon for his contribution to the Haute Couture activity of the House, in close collaboration with the creative studio and the atelier of the Place Vendome House,” the company said in a statement today.
At the time of his hiring, Guyon, a French graduate of the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne who had previously worked at Valentino alongside Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri, said, “Elsa Schiaparelli is an enchanting couture house. I have always been fascinated by its exceptional legacy, its luminous and intimate story, its quirky and poetic world, [and] its ultimate chic and endless creativity.”
Schiaparelli was a trailblazer, as her compulsively readable memoir, Shocking Life, makes clear. “Women dress alike all over the world: they dress to be annoying to other women” was just one of her piquant bon mots. She’s credited with trompe l’oeil knitwear, tailoring defined by severe, sculpted shoulders, costume jewelry as whimsical as her suiting was austere, and a fragrance, also named Shocking, with a bottle modeled on client Mae West’s belle poitrine. With no formal training, Schiaparelli’s oeuvre was marked by innovation and risk taking, much of which she undertook with the Surrealists, whom she counted as her closest friends.
The most famous Elsa-ism of all was the Duchess of Windsor’s lobster dress, designed in collaboration with Salvatore Dali and notorious at the time not only for the crustacean’s suggestive placement, but also for the dress’s diaphanous fabric. Fashion lore has it that Dali wanted to put real mayonnaise on the lobster, but Schiaparelli pooh-poohed the idea. Though Guyon was never seen as kinetic as Schiaparelli’s legacy makes her out to have been—in fact he was quite shy—he stayed true to her heritage, exploring many of the flamboyant tropes associated with her, including the circus, astrology, and that famous lobster dress. He also had a string of red carpet successes, dressing the likes of Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Earlier this week, Guyon’s Instagram bio was changed from Schiaparelli Creative Director to simply Creative Director. The timing of his departure is somewhat unexpected, however—at least from this distance. Recent investments would seem to have indicated that Schiaparelli owner Diego Della Valle was pleased with Guyon’s output. The couture show was moved from Schiaparelli’s Place Vendome hotel particulier to the grand environs of the Palais Garnier (no inch of Paris’s famous opera house is undecorated, and the same holds for many of Guyon’s creations). The company had also lately launched a ready-to-wear collection that it showed on a see-now-buy-now schedule, replacing the organizing principle of seasons with a story-based formula that made the most of the house’s rich past. Story 1 was inspired by the artist Man Ray, a frequent collaborator of Schiaparelli; Story 2 took Shocking Pink, the house founder’s signature color, as its starting point; and Story 3 drew on Schiaparelli’s Fall 1938 collection, which was based on Italian Renaissance paintings like Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, and featured butterflies, ladybugs, and other creatures. Bergdorf Goodman was a big supporter of Schiaparelli’s pret-à-porter.
In 2015, Guyon arrived to replace Marco Zanini, a designer of Swedish and Italian extraction who spent just three seasons at the Paris label. Della Valle bought the Schiaparelli name in 2006 after a 60-year dormancy (Schiaparelli closed the house in 1954, a victim of the changing fashions post-World War II), and he took a unique, somewhat meandering path to relaunching it. Before Zanini’s arrival, Della Valle spent years renovating Schiaparelli’s grand rooms on the Place Vendome and he also hired the couturier Christian Lacroix to create a one-off couture collection in her honor that was cheered by the fashion press but was apparently never made available for sale.
Just who follows in the footsteps of these diverse talents will be announced in the near future. Whoever is chosen, there’s no argument that Schiaparelli is one of the most beautiful names in fashion.