Madame Elsa Schiaparelli’s Fox Terrier, Popcorn

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Elsa Schiaparelli with her dogPhotography by Imagno/Getty Images

Her love of dogs provided Bertrand Guyon with inspiration for the French house’s A/W18 couture collection, appearing in the form of a feathered mask

Throughout her life, the inimitable Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli amassed a veritable gallimaufry of dogs. From Pekingeses, Airedale terriers and Cairn terriers, to dachshunds, boxers and Tibetan terriers, each were given suitably surreal monikers in keeping with her fashion house’s raison d’être, including Mr. X, Nuts, Popcorn and Gourou-Gourou. The latter were two fox terriers, owned by Schiap and her daughter Gogo – and while each was just as adored as the last, the couturier wrote particularly fondly of Popcorn in her 1954 autobiography, Shocking Life. “We were perfectly happy working at no. 4, rue de la Paix, but I cannot describe the nights that I passed there,” she explains. “I had rats and mice, of which I am terrified, dancing round my bed all night in a satanic saraband. I have a strong dislike, even a horror, of cats, but I got a small fox terrier hoping he would keep the rats away, but he was even more terrified than I was, and at the first sound of a mouse he crawled into my bed. We had to get up in the small hours, the courageous dog and I, to go to a nearby hotel and get some sleep.”

When in New York, after taking Popcorn for rambling walks through Central Park, Schiap would often make a pit-stop at chain restaurant Hamburger Heaven, purchasing one burger for herself and one for her beloved pet, washed down with a bottle of red wine (although perhaps le petit chien stuck to lapped water from a bowl instead). Mme Schiaparelli even went as far as sending him on his own holiday: “Popcorn played quite a role in our lives,” she wrote in her memoirs. “He had a terrific personality and went through so many adventures that I hope Gogo will one day write a book about him. When I sent him on a vacation to Jack’s island he acquired a reputation for fighting horseshoe crabs on the beach, riding them as if he were Conqueror of the Sounds.”

Bertrand Guyon, who was named creative director of Schiaparelli in 2015, has scoured the house’s rich history during his three-year tenure. This was no different for its haute couture A/W18 collection, for which Guyon looked to the Shocking fragrance bottle, designed by artist Leonor Fini in 1937, as initial inspiration. “The bottle features the flower head of a woman,” he tells AnOther. “The collection being inspired by Elsa Schiaparelli’s personality, some looks are direct nods to the great moments of her career. Hence, I wanted a flower headpiece, inspired by Leonor Fini’s paintings together with Dalí’s flower-headed women. Around this project, the concept of the mask was fine-tuned. This included the Popcorn mask, created by Stephen Jones and influenced by Madame Schiaparelli and Gogo’s fox terriers.”

With protruding cock-feather ears – offset by a coordinating boa draped around a white silk jersey gown – the couture mask bears a striking resemblance to a photograph of Popcorn taken in Vienna in 1926, where he is nuzzled by Elsa Schiaparelli as she gazes coquettishly into the camera’s lens. “When I was researching Elsa Schiaparelli and going through quite a few personal pictures of her, I quickly realized how much she loved animals, and specifically dogs. She is often photographed with her dog of the moment,” continues Guyon. “Her passion for dogs, and the fact that she loved having them around her, are reflective of her personality. She was smart and intelligent, but very human; sensitive and eccentric. Her love of dogs may speak of her fragility too, as their loyalty may have acted as a substitute for a lack of human affection.”