One of the most influential designers of our lifetime has passed away aged 80 this week, leaving behind a wonderful life that provided the 20th century with designs that have shaped our fashion industry forever.
Born in 1940, Elsa began her life within a wealthy conservative family and quickly rebelled to walk a path of independence at 21, leaving her family home and beginning a modelling career in Barcelona. Photographers quickly realised this young woman’s potential and her career moved to New York where it evolved into the shape she held for the rest of her life – one of the working woman with real goals and real societal movement.
In 1969 she began her life in jewellery design, first for Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo where she designed a two-inch bud vase from sterling silver worn upon a leather thong – this was a huge hit and success, and in 1971 she began designing for Halston. Her use of silver in her designs was extremely influential, and went from being a ‘commoners’ material to highly desirable with the likes of Liza Minneli adorning it.
One of her most prominent designs within the history of fashion is that of the Bone Cuff, which breached the gap between human figure and costume – creating an organic form from industrial metal. The bone cuff celebrated half a century since its creation last year and still holds an iconic place within our society, celebrating both strength and sensuality in its design.
In 1971 Elsa received the Coty Award and was featured within Vogue, and soon after in 1974 signed a contract with Tiffany and Co creating more influential designs such as Diamonds by the Yard and the Open Heart. Through Peretti’s involvement with Tiffanys, she not only evolved the jewellery market but her use of silver meant it was more affordable and available to the everyday person. She encouraged expression and independency of women everywhere, leaving her footprint on all of our hearts.
Her impression of 20th century design is difficult to emphasise in just words alone, and this impression grew larger into her later years with her many unique and resonating designs sparking controversy and a woman’s revolution in a man’s world.
In 2000, she started the charity of the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation which supports the environmental, social welfare and arts initiatives. From the very beginning Peretti wanted to not only influence the fashion world but also humans themselves by promoting a caring and nurturing image and supporting those that needed it most. She has been quoted saying: “For me to be a good designer is the simplest thing in the world. But to be a good human being, that is going to be hard…” “…I’d like to try though.”.
And try that she did, with much success. Elsa has left our world with a great footprint on our society, bringing great change in the way we view ourselves as women and with a courage to be uniquely ourselves whilst also having a loving for others. A woman that was unapologetically herself with a vision of constant change.
By Victoria Fletcher