Specific fashion events launched by prestigious auction houses in the last few years have proved that investing in important and historically recognised names can lead to many financial rewards. Yet having a substantial budget to invest is definitely not enough. A knowledge of fashion history, fabrics and textiles, but also keeping updated with the fashion news (so checking out which house is being relaunched, which may be closing down or which designer is going through a special anniversary in his/her career) are indeed key requisites to spot rare and unique valuable items.
The revamped interest in the house of Schiaparelli has led in the last few years to a progressive rediscovery of her work and career. Christie's had a special Schiap auction in January 2014, while last Tuesday three rare items by Schiaparelli where sold at the event hosted by Kerry Taylor Auctions.
Among the best sellers there were quite a few Alexander McQueen's designs (including a Givenchy couture tartan dress; a design from McQueen's S/S 2010 collection and a pair of his infamous "bumsters"...), plus historical costumes from the 18th century, beautiful gowns by Jeanne Lanvin, Balmain and Balenciaga, a colourful jacket by Thierry Mugler worthy of a superheroine and a rare Issey Miyake bright red molded plastic breastplate from his Autumn-Winter 1980 collection.
The auction included three items by Schiaparelli. A herring-bone knit blue wool swimsuit from the '30s, went for £1,400, while a pink damask evening coat from 1944 with shirred detailing to the front bodice and sleeves overlaid and outlined in pink cord with a gold thread and blue silk lattice, edged in gold thread toggles, with matching tie belt with gold thread tassels (apparently Marlene Dietrich owned an identical one and she opted for it on a morale boosting tour for the USA in November 1944) went for £10,000.
The most elaborate piece (sold at £30,000) was a lavishly embroidered coat from the "Zodiac Collection" (Autumn/Winter 1938-39; inspired by astrological references but also by the palace of Versailles and the reign of Louis XV).
This isn't the first time Kerry Taylor Auctions managed to get a piece from this collection: in December 2013 a jacket featuring twelve Lesage couched and embroidered gilt strip signs of the zodiac and with the left shoulder and hip panel embroidered and beaded with the Big Dipper, was sold for the record sum of £110,000 at Kerry Taylor's.
The black wool coat with padded shoulders looked particularly beautiful, though, as it featured pink velvet rococo inspired pockets with Lesage embroidered gilt metal strips and violet sequinned female profiles edged in gilt strip.
The most beautiful elements integrated in the coat were the gold lustre edged Sevres porcelain flowers and the seven bronze-effect rolled porcelain buttons. Schiaparelli specially commissioned these porcelain blooms from the Sevres factory in Vincennes (the pink, gold and mauve tones are typical of the Sevres factory's colour palette).
In a way these exquisite blooms make us think about more modern interpretations of the porcelain flowers in fashion such as the delicate pieces in Alexander McQueen's Spring/Summer 2015 collection.
Apparently, there was a mix of international museums and private individuals at the auction, so it will be exciting to see if any of these pieces will resurface at some point in a proper fashion exhibition or museum collection.
For the time being you can check out the complete results of the auction at this link.
One final note to all Schiap fans who can't afford to buy her clothes: you can dream about owning such rare pieces while maybe listening to Schiap's biography written by Meryle Secrest currently being read on BBC Radio 4 (check out this link).
The biography is divided in several parts and five episodes are already online.
Take it as a wonderful soundtrack to our collective dreams of Schiap, or just as a way to relax and drop out of the useless Christmas shopping rush (after all, Schiap had a dislike for shopping, except for shoes...).