Why fashion designers are so superstitious – WWD


Gabrielle Chanel’s lucky number was five. For Karl Lagerfeld, it was seven years. And for Riccardo Tisci, it’s 17, which is apparently why he puts that number on T-shirts and on the end of his Instagram handle.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to superstitions in the fashion industry, where fortune tellers, tarot cards, lucky talismans and even shamans have been prized for centuries. eternities. So today, Friday the 13th – always considered an unlucky day – designers must scramble for all the rabbit’s feet they can find.

It’s clear that an irrational belief in supernatural influences is behind the perfume the late Alber Elbaz created in 2017 with Frederic Malle, nicknamed Superstitious; why former Dior couturier Gianfranco Ferré never included a No. 17 look in his collection – it was always 16bis, and why four-leaf clovers and evil eye designs have become so popular in recent jewelry collections .

The Superstitious perfume bottle features an evil eye designed by Alber Elbaz.

While data and academic research on superstitions in fashion are sparse, psychologists have often cited a predisposition to them in people who are financially insecure, according to Valerie Steele, director of the FIT museum.

“I think that since fashion is all about ups and downs – you can be the cat’s meow one season and then totally left out the next – that would tend to make people hope they could have a little more luck on their side because the whole thing seems so irrational in general,” she said in an interview, giving fashion designers a rating of eight on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most superstitious. .

“The idea that superstition partly comes from a sense of lack of agency and financial anxiety would be important to fashion people because it seems so much like you need luck to get ahead,” he said. she said, noting that designer Arnold Scaasi used to regularly consult a fortune teller about his lucky numbers, which would help him choose when to show his next collection.

According to Steele, Scaasi shrugged when a reporter looked askance at his practice.

“It doesn’t hurt to have a little more luck” was the line. “Diane von Furstenberg apparently had coins with a family connection that she always put in her shoe before a fashion show. I think a lot of people have this idea that they have a certain lucky item of clothing or jewelry” , Steele added.

Christian Lacroix said he had received so many lucky talismans over the years – including a gold Napoleonic coin from legendary embroiderer François Lesage and a copper lion figurine from the late American publisher Carrie Donovan – that it was no longer possible to carry them in one’s pockets. .

Considering three, and multiples thereof, his lucky numbers, he usually had 36 or 63 outfits in his collections. And he visited Madame Mallais, a popular fortune teller among the fashion crowd in the 1970s while still a student at La Sorbonne in Paris. She scribbled something on a piece of paper and asked Lacroix what it might represent, and also told him that he would meet “a guy who will be very important in your life named Arnaud”.

Years later, Lacroix would realize that the sketch was his CL fashion logo and that Arnaud (the French spelling of the name Arnold) was actually referring to Bernard Arnault, the luxury titan who snatched him from Patou. and created a fashion house just for him in 1987.

Model Marie Seznec wears a Christian Lacroix Couture Fall 1987 dress

Model Marie Seznec wearing a Christian Lacroix Couture dress in 1987.
Bouet Thierry/WWD

Parisian jewelry designer Elie Top has worked alongside many designers with superstitious leanings, seeking a picture of himself at 18 while intern at Dior. He is seen clutching look number 16bis on a hanger backstage at a fashion show, with Ferré in the background.

(Like many Italians, Ferré considered the number 17 unlucky. Tisci, on the other hand, apparently adopted it because the 17th tarot card, known as the star, is auspicious.)

Top also worked briefly with Yves Saint Laurent, who was known to visit fortune tellers, believe his dog Moujik had special powers and kept bronze lions for luck, and with Elbaz, who would never give up. person a pair of scissors, always placing them on a table.

In a 2015 interview, Lagerfeld recalled a chilling premonition from his youth. “It’s amazing, I don’t know how it happened – it’s so strange, this celebrity. But as my fortune teller told me when I was young, she said: ‘For you, it will really begin when it’s finished for the others. That’s quite true.

Top said he doesn’t consider himself superstitious, but has felt a craving for reassuring symbols during the pandemic, which led to a collection released late last year called “Lucky Charms.” on clover, heart and star shapes. He said it was selling “very well”.

Elie Top lucky charm

Elie Top’s Lucky Charms collection.

“That’s what I thought was relevant to people,” he said. “It’s something that has meaning, so it’s even more precious, and if you give it as a gift, it’s like giving someone protection.”

Top has also referenced zodiac signs and astrology in other collections — and he never hands anyone a pair of scissors.

Christian Dior is one of the most superstitious designers of all time. He consulted a clairvoyant, Madame Delahaye, for all his big decisions, and who clung to a metal star he trampled on one evening in 1946, seeing it as a sign that he should start his own fashion house. .

Among the talismans he collected was lily of the valley, instructing his florist to produce it all year round so that he could always carry a sprig of the spring flower with him.

Legend has it that Madame Delahaye urged Dior not to travel to Montecatini, Italy. He died on the ill-fated trip in 1957, aged 52.

Dior’s current couturier Maria Grazia Chiuri has referenced the house’s superstitious past, basing her spring 2021 couture collection on the divinatory arts, in particular a 15th-century tarot deck designed for the Duke of Milan, who lit up the palette of dusty jewel tones and old gold. .

Christian Dior Couture Spring 2021

Christian Dior Couture Spring 2021
Courtesy of ChristianDior

“On a personal level, I am fascinated by the world of divination and tarot readings; therefore, I always sought to include references to these symbols, which Christian Dior adored and found magical, in my collections,” Chiuri told WWD. “I fell in love with their poetic beauty and the fact that they create a narrative that changes over time based on how we feel at the time. They are part of our irrational humanity, a way of expressing who we are and what we feel.

According to Chiuri, tarot cards and the zodiac sign allow her to speak “in a visual and universal language” to which her clients respond.

“As an example, embroidering enigmatic symbols on an evening gown is a process that brings couture into the dimension to which it most belongs, where dreams of beauty are transformed into tangible objects,” she said. Explain. “For my clients, it is these elements, woven in the realm of talismans and lucky charms, that convey the magical, dreamlike, mysterious dimension that we associate with fashion as a profound expression of our identity.

Sewing workshops in Paris are renowned for the many superstitions spawned in the workplace. Among them: A piece of tulle should never hang from the ceiling, because it announces death, for example. Knocking over pins is also considered a dark omen.

On the other hand, wedding dresses are harbingers of good fortune. If a seamstress pricks her finger while sewing, it is considered a good omen for the bride. Likewise, if a seamstress sews a lock of her own hair into the wedding dress, it should hasten her own path to nuptial bliss.

Troubled times seem to breed superstitious beliefs. Fashion historian Pamela Golbin noted that they were prevalent around World Wars I and II, when Elsa Schiaparelli created an entire collection based on horoscopes, when Dior relied on her lucky number 13 and the mystical advice of Madame Delahaye, and when Gabrielle Chanel would schedule fashion shows on the fifth day of the fifth month.

She also noted that lucky symbols, zodiac motifs, and talismans have reigned as motifs in the decorative arts for hundreds of years.

In 2016, the house of Schiaparelli created a contemporary version of the iconic Zodiac jacket, part of the founder’s Astrological collection for fall 1938, inspired by astronomy, the constellations and the Sun King.

Some fashion items have superstitious connotations.

Steele noted that the color green has long been derided as unlucky in fashion, probably dating back to Victorian times, when certain garments were dyed bright green using arsenic, with disfiguring or life-threatening consequences. the wearer and the manufacturer.

Left: Afternoon dress, silk, chenille and velvet, c.  1865 Right: Arsenic green dress, circa 1860-1865, on display at the Bata Shoe Museum exhibition Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century.

Left: Afternoon dress, silk, chenille and velvet, c. 1865
Right: The Arsenic Green Dress, circa 1860-1865, was on display at the Bata Shoe Museum exhibition Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th century.

RightL Courtesy of FIT Museum, Left: Courtesy of Suzanne McClean/ © 2014 Bata Shoe Museum/ Research Collection 2014.07.406 ABC, Gift of the Suddon-Cleaver Collection.

With the pandemic boosting the popularity of outdoor performances, the use of shamans to prevent rainfall may become more widespread.

To wit: According to sources, Alaïa hired a shaman for its outdoor show in Paris on July 3, and while a few drops of rain fell on guests who arrived early, Pieter Mulier’s debut collection for the Parisian house was widely acclaimed.

Louis Vuitton has hired Brazilian shaman Osmar Santos Scritori, who goes under the handle of The Weather Son on Instagram, for several of its destination cruise shows, according to multiple outlets. In a rare interview with French publication Technikart, Scritori’s wife Adélaïde, also a medium, explained that when she was little, an ice storm ruined her father’s coffee plantation and “that’s where it all started”.


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