By now, everyone has seen Doja Cat’s bejeweled look at Schiaparelli’s Haute Couture show. Social media is flooded with mixed emotions; some praise her for being inventive, dedicated, and patient. She’s constantly trying new things. Others find Doja Cat’s look controversial due to its sheer impracticality. However, many of these critics don’t realize the history behind Schiaparelli’s work.
Elsa Schiaparelli rose to fame after her collaborations with surrealist Salvidor Dalí. Their works from this partnership were arguably the most important part of one of the biggest avant-garde movements of the twentieth century. While living in New York, Schiaparelli was in the same social circles as artists in the surrealism movement, like Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, and Jean Cocteau. Eventually, she moved to Paris with them in 1922. The artists around her heavily influenced her work. Surrealists’ work had a shock value, which carried over into Schiaparelli’s designs. The unique collaborations of Schiaparelli and Dalí brought surrealist art to life and brought a new category to fashion: avant-garde.
In fashion, avant-garde is a French term that refers to the movement of experimentation and innovation for designers to create something that has never been designed or worn before. Known for her shocking and daring designs, Schiaparelli epitomized the zeitgeist of the Surrealism Movement in Paris. It wasn’t until after Schiaparelli’s reign that fashion designers started seeing their work as art. She merged the worlds of fashion and art through her collaborations with Surrealist artists. Working with Surrealism, Schiaparelli was able to test the creative boundaries “beyond the commercial concerns of the fashion world” (The Victoria and Albert Museum).
The point of avant-garde fashion isn’t to be practical. It’s to create a wearable work of art. And Doja Cat did just that! Her look consisted of painting her entire upper body and covering it in 30,000 red Swarovski crystals, in a modern work of art by famous makeup artist Pat McGrath. It took an entire team 5 hours of work to paint, glitter, and crystalize the singer. She’s never been one to be afraid of taking risks (just think about her song “Mooo!” and her Taco Bell jingle). Regardless of whether or not you liked her look, I think we all can agree that Doja Cat is an art icon.