Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli is regarded as being far ahead of her time, collaborating with Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau, and developing styles and techniques we take for granted today.
She designed a wrap dress, a swimming costume with a built-in bra, a divided skirt we now call shorts, and placed plastic zippers in plain sight.
A contemporary of Coco Chanel, she opened her fashion house in Paris in 1927, and took inspiration from far and wide – including her favourite corner of Scotland on Royal Deeside.
Schiaparelli was a frequent guest at Braemar Castle and this Scottish connection would eventually make it into her work when she incorporated tartan into her designs.
And so, for this reason and others, The Fife Arms in Braemar seems the perfect place to host the inaugural Festival of Fashion, one of several artistic endeavours in the village.
November 17 to 19 will be a weekend of fashion immersion at the hotel – which also hosts the Braemar Summit and Literary Festival – with a celebration of couture.
More than 20 international fashion figures will contribute, including designers Simone Rocha and Giles Deacon, writers Tim Blanks, Bethan Holt, Charlie Porter and Bay Garnett, and Academy Award-winning costume designer Sandy Powell.
Also taking part is Kirsty Hassard, co-curator of V&A Dundee’s current blockbuster exhibition Tartan, who will be discussing Identity Through Fashion.
“The V&A has the best fashion collection in the UK and one of the best in the world,” said Kirsty, whose work has taken her on an archives journey through the designs of Dior, Chanel and Balenciaga to name a few.
“Fashion has been my specialism for the past 10 years. I did a Masters in Dress and Textile History at Glasgow University, so that was the starting point,” she explained.
For the Festival of Fashion, Kirsty will be in conversation with Bethan Holt, fashion news and features director at The Telegraph.
“The subject of our talk is identity through fashion or fashion and identity, and I’ll be using the Tartan exhibition as a focal point,” said Kirsty.
“It will talk about people who have used fashion, and specifically tartan, as a way to express their identity.
“I think, overall, sometimes fashion is seen as a frivolous thing. But I think everyone, no matter what you wear every day, you’re presenting a particular image to the world and you’re doing that through clothing, essentially.
Fabulous Frances Farquharson
“It impacts everyone across all different parts of society. One person in particular is (former Vogue editor) Frances Farquharson, who had associations and strong links to the Braemar area.
“She lived at Braemar Castle and Invercauld Castle in the 1940s and ’50s, and there’s an amazing new biography out about her, written by Caroline Young.
“So I’ll be talking about her and how she used clothing throughout her lifetime to show different aspects of her identity.”
Kirsty is a particular fan of Schiaparelli, and said: “She created these amazing sort of avant garde designs.
“This idea of combining art and fashion, I don’t think it had ever really been done and on that level before.
“I think she really pushed what you could do with fashion – and her designs were amazing and inventive and entirely creative.
Inspired by the Highlands
“She worked with tartan and she visited the Scottish Highlands. From what I have been able to ascertain, there’s a direct impact on what she was producing based on where she was visiting.
“You start to see tartan in her collections from about 1949 onwards, which really ties up with that connection with Frances, which has been really nice to be able to see.”
Events will be hosted in the Fife Arms hotel, St Margaret’s Art Centre and The Braemar Highland Games Pavilion in the village.
Organiser Lorraine Grant said: “The Festival of Fashion builds on the Fife Arms’ celebration of Scotland’s long-standing links with the world of fashion, most notably through a famous former local resident, Seattle-born Farquharson, who was a fashion journalist and former editor of Harper’s Bazaar in the 1940s, and a passionate advocate for contemporary fashion.
“Frances was a great friend of Schiaparelli, after whom The Fife Arms’ Cocktail Bar is named, who often visited Frances and her husband Captain Alwyne Farquharson of Invercauld in Braemar, leading to Schiaparelli developing a love for Scotland and its tartan and tweeds.
“Although inspired by Braemar’s historic fashion connections, Festival of Fashion provides a new forum to bring together international design talent, local audiences, fashion commentators and the next generation of young designers to discuss
what our collective fashion future might look like.
“We hope the festival will develop into an annual event, building on the success of other Fife Arms festivals such as the Braemar Literary Festival.”
Ewan Venters, CEO of ArtFarm, which owns The Fife Arms, said Braemar was now a “shining light for art, literature, fashion and reasoned debate in Scotland and beyond”.
“We are excited to add a fashion event to the calendar to firmly establish Braemar – and The Fife Arms – as the centre of a new artistic movement in Scotland.
“Scotland has historically been a beacon for pushing the boundaries in art, fashion and literature, and our corner of Aberdeenshire is once again leading the charge with a brand new fashion festival for all to enjoy.”
To buy tickets for the Festival of Fashion visit thefifearms.com or call 01339 720200.