The title ‘Shocking Life’ alone suggests multiple readings. ‘Shocking’ refers to her life, one of excitement, privilege and excess; it also references ‘Shocking Pink’, the colour she created, which acts as a synecdoche for her provocative designs; finally, it underscores her commercial success by echoing the name of the fragrance she launched in 1937. But as critic Judith Thurman observes, ‘what is most shocking about Schiaparelli […] is her obscurity.’
Fashion and photography share certain characteristics. Each claims the status of art, yet remains at its margins. The claims of photography have achieved recognition to some extent, yet photography-as-art constitutes only a small part of all photography. Fashion’s claim to artistic status remains contentious.
How we understand fashion is a collection of infinite possibilities, projected images and representations. At once enigmatic, desirable, glamorous, festive, authoritarian; dress is a multi-dimensional concept that might be described and observed a countless number of ways, from anthropological costume to the revered fashion image.
Released in 1874, the same year of its demise, Mallarmé’s La Dernière Mode, is a magazine/art project/journal on fashion that has come to be regarded as one of the most important publications in fashion academia and literature, and indeed our critical understanding of fashion today.