On Monday, I went to the presentation of the beautiful

(and this word beautiful really is not enough)

 and most wonderful book that was full of inspirations

and memories written by Beppe Modenese of his life in fashion.

With only a week to go until Milan hosts Men’s Fashion week,

this book, simply titled, ” Minister of Elegance”

is a lesson in style for everyone there.

All was so perfect, even the weather in the garden was great.

And I had the happy fortune to meet my friend Roberta Balsamo,

who gave me this phone cover.

Although it does not seem to be my image for myself,

I immediately gravitated to this fantasy world of hers like a magnet.

I can see people looking rather perplexed

– it is not black? When I make a call holding

my new palm tree and crocodile – or lizard?  telephone.

I think no matter, it is all good luck.

Elsa Schiapparelli is known for “having been influenced”

by the surrealists that were in Paris when she was designing because

so much of her fashion really blurred the lines between art and fashion.

Was she really influenced?  Or was her work with Dali, Man Ray, and Cocteau

the root of all the collaborations we see today between artists and fashion.

Except she was not credited for this,  as art was given more respect than fashion then.

Wearable art is the right term for her work,

like this amazing straw hat with bugs all over.


Shiapparelli created memorable costume jewellery as well as high fashion.

Here, a study in entomological elegance – a parade of insects

 crawling around your throat, a wired and beautiful idea expressing nature.

Made in 1938, this rare collar, a fantasy of insects, is also a fantasy of mine to own.


Children, toys and joy: the endless creativity of Calder has a touching warm feeling, so much ahead of his time, so subtle and serene. His playfulness

and yet innovative spirit lends itself directly to childhood.

What a joy this standing sculpture is, so light and happy!

Silk screened and hand stitched, when it comes to making gloves,

nobody can beat Meret Oppenheim.  And we cannot forget

that this is a relatively recent piece, 1985.  The veins of plants?  People?  Clearly life.

Another hat by Schiapparelli, this time ” Glove Hat” with gloved hands,

made of straw and leather in 1936 has inspired

many fashion designers in recent years.


 Her jewels are the epitome of Parisian chic.  She was called, “the poetess of metal”.

This piece with the hand always intrigued me. Like many of her boxes, they are jewels not to wear but to touch, hundreds of them in silver and bronze,

with phrases and symbols, as that was her way of talking, expressing, writing.

In 1972, Joan Sonnabend opened a gallery in New York Citycalled Sculptures to Wear.  From Boston, she had started the avant garde art scene there in the 60’s.  Moving to New York, she shared her passion for art jewellery that she wore all the time with this new idea, wearable art.  Max Ernst, Man Ray, Calder, Hans Arp, Braque, and current New York names like Nevelson and Robert Lee Morris, would be a part of her circle.  Morris, a close friend, opened ArtWear in 1977,

after she closed, to keep the idea alive.

Salvator Dali did so much, using all mediums… painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, jewellery. He was actually a master jeweler and I have the feeling this beating heart has been a good source of inspiration for many. He made it for the Queen of England, and it couldn’t be more appropriate. Made of rubies on gold and other precious stones, the real surrealist

touch is a mechanism that makes the heart beat!

Created in 1953 for Queen Elizabeth II…here a real Royal Heart.

 Luisa Calder here, in a portrait by Man Ray, 1931, Paris.

This is what still makes the dream.

When real ideas about art were being shared and seen and they were all friends

and just enjoying exchanging art between themselves – since so many

could not find a buyer then for their work.   How times change.







Posted on: Friday, June 21st, 2013

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