Designers Prada, Schiaparelli in new Met exhibit

COLLEEN BARRY DANIELA PETROFF Associated Press Published:

MILAN (AP) -- Miuccia Prada never met her designing compatriot Elsa Schiaparelli in life but the two are being united in an exhibit on the sidelines of Milan Fashion Week.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has paired designs by the two female Italian stylists from decidedly different eras in what it calls "an impossible conversation" -- impossible because it never happened.

Prada, 62, expressed surprise when asked if she had ever met Schiaparelli -- only to be reminded that she had died in 1973 at age 83. The older designer's heyday was in the 1930s, making her memory much more remote.

"When I think of her, I think of the past," Prada told reporters Friday after the exhibit was introduced.

The ballroom in Milan's Royal Palace, which is adorned with statues damaged in World War II bombings, contained pairings of the two designers' dresses, showing apparent similarities that fade when their techniques and inspirations are considered.

"I honestly see more differences than similarities," Prada said.

The exhibit, which will run at the Met from May 10-Aug. 19, includes two dresses both inspired by the Indian sari.

Schiaparelli, who was influenced by the Surrealists, took inspiration from a famous 14-year-old Indian princess of the era to create a long printed orange silk chiffon evening gown that drapes lightly over both shoulders.

Prada, who is at the forefront of contemporary design and who often explores technique in her creations, was inspired by how a European traveler would interpret a sari. Her minimalist dress in golden fabric is shoulder-less with an elegant accordion side pleat.

The two also sewed insect motifs onto separate garments. Schiaparelli placed her Botticelli-inspired bugs on lapels, reflecting 1930s dinner society that put the focus on the waist up. Prada, who often focuses on the waist down, put her bug on a skirt, said curator Andrew Bolton.

Despite the exhibit, Prada said she doesn't take direct inspiration from earlier designers, like Schiaparelli, but rather from periods.

"Every decade represents a moment in the life of a person," she said.

Reflecting on Schiaparelli's era, Prada said today perhaps people are less eccentric because they have more freedom to express themselves.

"I'm interested in the limits of eccentricities, because too much eccentricity is ridiculous," she said.