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Who is Misia Sert

by Marlies Dekkers

If you had a time machine, where would you go? Oh, I have plenty of dream destinations, from Queen Hatchepsut’s ancient Egypt to that cruel, sexy Viking Age. But for my latest couture collection, I travelled back to Paris during the first exciting decades of the 20th century. Just imagine: Renoir and Monet painting their impressionist master pieces, Proust penning ‘A la recherche du temps perdu’, Debussy bewitching audiences with his radical compositions. At the centre of all this, one mysterious woman. Meet my inspiration: cultural icon and muse Misia Sert.

Who was this mysterious lady?

Misia’s life reads like an adventure novel. Her mother died giving birth to her, and Misia –meaning ‘small she-bear’ in Polish- grew up well-connected but neglected by her father, a famous Polish sculptor. She was a gifted piano player, and took lessons from none other than Franz Liszt and Gabriel Fauré. (check out Toulouse-Lautrec’s mesmerizing painting of Misia at her piano!) She chose instead to make a career as a formidable wife and an unforgettable muse, inspiring composers, artists, poets, musicians, thinkers, dancers and designers—and helping with money.

”Woman has everything, but Misia has every woman,”  fashion icon Coco Chanel wrote, describing her close friend Misia’s influence. (Coco and Misia used to go on wild road trips through Europe together, a bit like Thelma and Louise but dressed to the nines) And indeed, Misia’s famous Parisian salons brought together the greatest talents of the century. When composer Igor Stravinsky first played the piano score of ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ to Ballets Russes-director Serge Diaghilev —in Misia’s apartment of course— she spotted it as a masterpiece before Diaghilev did.

Misia was more charismatic than beautiful, yet painters couldn’t stop painting her. She wasn’t an artist, but indirectly created some unforgettable pieces of art. I think composer Erik Satie described her best when he called her ‘a magician’. To celebrate Misia’s magic and her everlasting influence, I created this deeply sensual Fall/Winter collection. 

I hope it inspires you to be your own muse!

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