May 24, 2012

Legends at Loggerheads

In director Baz Luhrmann’s film for the Costume Institute’s “impossible conversation” between Italian designers Miuccia Prada and the late Elsa Schiaparelli, Australian actress Judy Davis (playing Schiaparelli) and the real-life Ms. Prada sit at the heads of a Gothic banquet table in an anonymous, shadowy chateau. The pair have flutes of white wine before them, and a series of glass decanters are staked at the table’s center. Over a drink, they emphatically discuss the context of their life’s work as designers, and the perils they’ve overcome as women in fashion. But the actual, 1930s predicate for the film—indeed, for the entire exhibition, now open to the general public at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—was far more absurdist, whimsical, and, well, funny than the curators or Luhrmann have rendered here. (With good reason—one is a serious work of design academia; the other was designed to tickle.) Before mash-ups, Vanity Fair’s “Impossible Interview” caricatures were exactly that, in which Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias contrasted two figures from recent-ish history—“Gibson Girl” illustrator and curve fetishist Howard Chandler Christy, say, versus acute-angle pitchman Pablo Picasso—and had them spar in pithy captions. The sporting visuals were zippy and colorfully lush—and now, for the first time on, we look back at the full portfolio. Click to view the original “Impossible Interview” series as it appeared in Vanity Fair.