Review: Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear & Julie Morstad
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada & Tundra Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 6, 2018 by Tundra Books
Here is the life of iconic fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who as a little girl in Rome, was told by her own mamma that she was brutta. Ugly. So she decided to seek out beauty around her, and found it everywhere. What is beauty? Elsa wondered. She looked everywhere for beauty until something inside of Elsa blossomed, and she became an artist with an incredible imagination. Defining beauty on her own creative terms, Schiaparelli worked hard to develop her designs, and eventually bloomed into an extraordinary talent who dreamed up the most wonderful dresses, hats, shoes and jewelry. Why not a shoe for a hat? Why not a dress with drawers? And she invented a color: shocking pink! Her adventurous mind was the key to her happiness and success–and is still seen today in her legacy of wild imagination. Daring and different, Elsa Schiaparelli used art to make fashion, and it was quite marvelous.
Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad, the dynamic duo who created the critically acclaimed Julia, Child, team up again to bring to life the childhood memories and the inspiring milestones of the legendary Elsa Schiaparelli. With its warm, lyrical text and enchanting illustrations, Bloom shows readers how ingenuity, vision and self doubt all made Schiaparelli truly beautiful. A gift for her older fans and younger audiences who have yet to discover her genius, Bloom is sure to be an enthralling classic.
Bold beauty. Quiet beauty. Hidden beauty.
By the age of seven, I wonder: What makes something beautiful?
Canadian author and artist duo Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad have worked together previously- on the delightful and beautiful picture book Julia, Child– and return here in glorious , vibrant and poetic fashion with Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli. A biographical picture book about the life of the illustrious, rule-breaking and rule-bending designer Elsa Schiaparelli, Bloom takes readers through major moments, breakthroughs, and legacies in the designer’s life.
Bloom is told in the first-person narrative of Elsa, and opens to a scene in which a newborn Elsa looks up to frowning parents who, we are informed, had been hoping to have a boy. As we soon learn, Elsa’s older sister Beatrice- apparently favoured by their mother- is recognized as the bella in the family, while Elsa is called brutta- ugly. This harsh judgment of ugliness by her own immediate family seems to remain a relatively constant cloud in much of Elsa’s early (and perhaps later) life. It is through a failed experiment involving flower seeds, as well as the encouragement from an innovative and kind uncle, that ‘a seed of wild imagination’ and artistry is planted in Elsa- something that moves her and propels her life and life’s work to be ‘daring, different, and whole…[to] plant a new seed of beauty’. With Maclear’s beautifully melodic, empathetic storytelling style leading the way, Morstad’s incredible, meaningful illustrations follow to highlight just some of Elsa’s significant moments: her stirring time with artists such as Picasso and Dahli; her Trompe l’oeil design breakthrough; the mixing and making of her signature shocking pink; and ‘why not’ approach to making fashion for women extravagant, unusual, bold, colourful, talked-about- and unforgettable.
Overall, Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli is a gorgeous work that balances biography, lyricism, and art in picture book format. For readers who adore biographical picture books, or simply love Kyo Maclear’s and Julie Morstad’s respective (or joint!) work, Bloom is a sensorial feast whether read quietly or shared aloud. Those both familiar and unfamiliar with Schiaparelli’s life and continuing influence in fashion will likely find something- or many things!- to appreciate and savour about Bloom. At the back pages, A Note from the Author and the Illustrator mentions that ‘it is difficult to express everything [Schiaparelli] was and did in such a short book’; Maclear and Morstad have added a concise yet rich catalog of the designer’s contributions, as well as a list of Sources and Further Reading for those interested.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Tundra Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.