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Mar 09, 2022

x Metaverse,
a student project

It is almost a century old and yet the brand can still be futuristic. Maybe that's why the Chinese market is - or should be - so interested in Schiaparelli. My research was to imagine how the late Elsa Schiaparelli would live in the Metaverse.

Elsa Schiaparelli, the world’s most surrealist designer

Active in the late 1930s and early 1950s, the Italian-born French couturière Elsa Schiaparelli was once a strong opponent of Coco Chanel. She believed that fashion meant novelty. Her fashion was about colors and decorations, focusing on women's waist and hip curves, using strong and bright colors in the style of the Fauves movement.

There is a broad consensus that Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the most innovative fashion designers in the 1920s and 1930s. But let's look back at her career. At the end of the 1920s, Schiaparelli established her own fashion brand in Paris. In 1934, she became the first woman designer to be featured on the cover of the American magazine Time.

Elsa Schiaparelli's signature design is bold and recognizable. Whether it is jewellery accessories or high-end gowns, everything is a magical combination of surreal artwork and fashion.

The brand after Elsa

After closing its doors in 1954, Schiaparelli’s eponymous brand was dormant for nearly 60 years. When fashion magnate Diego Della Valle acquired the rights to couturière Elsa Schiaparelli's name in 2007, the fashion world waited with bated breath for news of the label's re-launch. In July 2013, Schiaparelli presented a capsule haute couture collection designed by Christian Lacroix as a tribute to Elsa Schiaparelli in Paris. In April 2019, the current artistic director Daniel Roseberry was appointed to the role.

Breaking the boundaries of time

What’s interesting today is the brand's influence on the Chinese market. Schiaparelli should open Weibo, WeChat, but overall focus and plan a strong presence on Xiao Hong Shu (literally “The Little Red Book”), as many new fashion/art-oriented brands do. Xiao Hong Shu is a visual social media combining both IG and Pinterest functions and very popular in the “niche” of 210 million Chinese Gen Zers (McKinsey). They could even set up their first store in Asia, and a great place would be Qiantan Taikooli Shanghai. Or why not stage a Metaverse-themed fashion party, with celebrities, fashion pioneers, friends of media and China’s top virtual idols, including Ayayi? They might also release a new series of works with a digital fashion show in the meta-universe. Finally, they could even hold an exhibition of works by the late Elsa Schiaparelli at the Shanghai West Bund Art Museum.

Li Yunfei's futuristic moodboard

But let's focus on a possible new collection to be shown in a potential new store in Asia. As a key part of my student project, to create a Metaverse themed capsule, I would like to design 10 looks and 20 accessories. Inside the store, I imagined a one-of-a-kind "VR" corner for customers, where you completely can feel like a virtual character in the Metaverse. And in this Metaverse world, you can mix and match products as you wish and make as many friends as you like: it could be the new brand ambassador Ayayi, your favorite idol, late Elsa Schiaparelli herself, but also Daniel Roseberry or anyone you admire. Of course, I thought you should be able to buy the items and products you match in the Metaverse in the real world, too. So, to sum it up, the project aims to offer consumers a different kind of experience, halfway between physical and virtual reality, to increase interactivity.


Li Yunfei
Master’s Program in Art Direction & Digital Management, Shanghai