Continued from page 1

The identity of the artistic director remains the biggest question mark.

The pressure for the launch to succeed may perhaps explain why there’s still been no formal announcement, although it was scheduled for September.

Khelfa and Schiaparelli CEO Camilla Schiavone dismissed rumors that John Galliano might be in the running, but they both refused to reveal a short-list.

Schiavone tried to explain away the secrecy.

“The house was rebought in 2006. Now, we have the property. We’ve waited so long to get it right. We’re not interested in running after someone. But you will know in the next three weeks or so. The first, what I call, ready-to-couture collection will probably be June 2013.”

Ready-to-couture is a concept Schiavone hopes will keep the classy profile of the Schiaparelli name. Garments won’t be available in boutiques but will be made-to-measure for select clients who are invited to the 21 Place Vendome for fittings. Though the house says the aim is to produce highly wearable clothes, the first collection will be shown during the Paris Haute Couture week _ fittingly, alongside historic rival Chanel.

In their heyday, Coco Chanel dismissed Schiaparelli as “that Italian artist who makes clothes.” Schiaparelli responded, equally cattily, calling Chanel “that milliner.”

Fashion rivalries are in vogue at the moment. A highlight of this year’s fashion calendar involves the media pitting the two new designers at Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior against each other.

So after 60 years does the Schiaparelli revival signal there’ll once again be handbags at dawn on the Place Vendome?

“No! Chanel is Chanel. It remains Chanel,” says Khelfa. She hesitates: “But Schiaparelli is coming!”

____

Thomas Adamson can be followed at http:/ /Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP