Schiaparelli Mystery

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Published June 26, 2009

For as long as I can remember, Azzedine Alaïa has lived and worked in his own boutique, atelier and theater complex converted from an old soup kitchen on rue de la Verrerie in Paris’ Marais. He’s also been an avid collector of vintage couture for years, acquiring the likes of Vionnet, which he keeps in a specially outfitted vault in his basement. So when an invitation arrived for a private view in Alaïa’s theater of the Schiaparelli pieces that are part of an extensive  couture sale to be held  at the Paris auction house Drouot on July 3, I made time to have a look. Nobody’s saying if these 24 Schiaparellis from the 30s, lovingly lit in her favorite color pink, are from Alaïa’s own collection, but it’s a good bet. The sale is organized by Chombert-Sternbach, (Dominique Chombert and Françoise Sternbach) a Paris-based duo which has quickly become the fashion specialist in Paris organizing about 40  auctions per year from Hermès to a recent YSL clothing sale held cleverly last February just when Pierre Bergé put the contents of Yves’ art-filled home on the block. Among the curvy black suits, whimsical satin gowns, and trompe l’oeil jewelry on display was one heart-stopper: the crossover burlap jacket  featuring a woman’s blonde hair falling down one sleeve  with her face on the shoulder and hand at the waist designed by Jean Cocteau  and embroidered by Lesage for Schiaparelli’s winter 1937 collection estimated from 12,000 to 15,000. Ah that’s worth breaking a stylish piggy bank for, certainly.