Impossible Conversations 2.0

Left: Rodarte spring 2020 ready-to-wear, Photo by Daria Kobayashi Ritch courtesy of Rodarte Right: Balenciaga fall 2022 ready-to-wear, Photo courtesy of Balenciaga

The Spring 2012 Costume Institute exhibition, “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations,” explored the worlds of two innovators, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, by highlighting their striking similarities (and the subtleties of their differences) in the form of a conversation.

Baz Luhrmann taped interviews with Ms. Prada and, separately, with actress Judy Davis playing Schiaparelli. The Australian filmmaker then joined them so we could see the two women talking to each other across a long table, first at the beginning of the show and several times throughout. Many of the pair’s trademark quotes were blown up and emblazoned on the walls next to their fashions.

I’ve always loved the title and the premise, but I wanted to put my own spin on the “what-if.” I surmised it would be more interesting to pair two designers whose aesthetics and philosophies are at odds with one another. Using a quote and a signature design from each pair, I illustrate fashion’s “Odd Couples” that make for REALLY “Impossible Conversations.”

The first time I did this was in 2020, but with another fashion cycle soon beginning, it was a good time to reprise to demonstrate the ongoing yin and yang of fashion.

Left: LaQuan Smith fall 2023 ready-to-wear Right: The Row resort 2024, Photo courtesy of The Row

LaQuan Smith: “The woman I design for is unapologetic and sexy, and she wants to be the center of attention” AND Ashley Olsen: “I don’t think you necessarily need to show off your stomach and your boobs to be sexy. I’m just not attracted to that type of dressing.”

Left: RR 331 Black velvet, duchess satin, and gazar Inquisition Infanta, Photo by Dan Lecca courtesy of RR331 Right: Collina Strada spring 2022 ready-to-wear, Photo by Alessandro Viero for

Ralph Rucci: “It’s all about me and techniques, Japanese fetishism, the great cultural influences of Japanese words, and those women who have class, grace, and enormous sensual appeal — such as Tina Chow” AND Hillary Taymour: “We try to cast a huge variety of types of humans. Old, young, tall, small, able-bodied, non-able-bodied humans. I just try to make it as inclusive-such an overused word-as possible through my eager community.”

Left: Ralph Lauren spring 2023 ready-to-wear, Photo courtesy of Ralph Lauren Right: Schiaparelli fall 2021 couture, Photo by Daniel Roseberry

Ralph Lauren: “I don’t design clothes. I design dreams” AND Daniel Roseberry: “I rarely remember my dreams, and when I do, it’s because they are sexual in nature.”

Left: Yohji Yamamoto Fall 2023 ready-to-wear, Photo by Daniele Oberrauch for Right: Christopher John Rogers resort 2023, Photo by Jonas Gustavsson for Christopher John Rogers

Yohji Yamamoto: “I have been described as addicted to black. Why black, you may ask. Because black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy but mysterious. You need black to have a silhouette. Black can swallow light or make things look sharp. But above all, black says, “I don’t bother you; don’t bother me.” AND Christopher John Rogers: “I’ve always been attracted to color more than any concrete idea or theme. What motivates my work is color and color theory.”

Left: Marc Jacobs fall 2022 ready-to-wear Photo courtesy of Marc Jacobs Right: Valentino Fall 2023 couture, Photo courtesy of Valentino

Marc Jacobs: “I always find beauty in odd and imperfect things. They are so much more interesting. AND Pierpaolo Piccioli: “I believe my job is to deliver my idea of beauty related to the time we’re living in.”

Left: Christian Siriano fall 2023 ready-to-wear, photo by Filippo Fior for Right: Nili Lotan fall 2023 ready-to-wear, Photo courtesy of Nili Lotan

Christian Siriano: “I’m not a fan of underdressing. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed” AND Nili Lotan: “Neither loud nor aggressive, clothes should be clean and sophisticated. A designer should offer a woman the elements for her self-expression. A woman’s beauty and self should be enhanced, not defined by her clothes.”

Left: Carolina Herrera pre-fall 2023, Photo courtesy of Carolina Herrera: Right: Loewe spring 2022 ready-to-wear, Photo by Filippo Fior for

Wes Gordon: “My goal is always to give a woman something glamorous and exciting and takes your breath away and makes your heart beat a little bit faster” AND Jonathan Anderson: “You have to be slightly uncomfortable with what you’re doing, and you have to be able to try to find moments of newness.”

Left: Yeohlee Fall 2023 ready- to-wear, Photo courtesy of Yeohlee Right: Comme des Garcons fall 2023 ready-to-wear, Photo by Salvatore Dragone for

Yeohlee: “I have this affection for one size fits all unisex clothing that is weightless and packable” AND Rei Kawakubo: “You can tell if it’s a good collection if people are afraid of it. In ten years, everyone will love it.”

FYI, the quotes were sourced from many different places. Yohji Yamamoto’s quote is taken from “Be-Spoke: Revelations from the World’s Most Important Fashion Designers,” by Marylou Luther © Rizzoli New York, 2023.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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