Daniel Roseberry‘s spring-summer 2023 haute couture collection for Schiaparelli set the internet ablaze. In general, society feels an ease in blaming and targeting fashion – and its industry – in a whole range of humanity’s faults. It’s so frivolous, and it doesn’t have the art world’s intimidating authority to freely touch difficult topics… actually, who needs fashion? That’s why a controversy, or even a stinking hot scandal, can so easily grow out of a fashion scene. Yes, these fake – yet extremely realistic – taxidermy dresses coming from Schiaparelli’s couture atelier, without reading into further context, may instantly associate with a number of horrible crimes, from poaching endangered species to colonialism. But since when is interpreting everything without comprehending the context first a normal thing to do? Now that’s a question for the culture.
Shocking has been integral to Schiaparelli’s DNA since Elsa’s day. And Roseberry knows how to make his couture a clickbait moment for the 21st century. The designer’s mind was in fact focused on a hell – the Inferno of Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s relevant as ever in 2023, and the three sinful animal symbols Dante wrote of (Lion: pride; Leopard: lust; Wolf: avarice) keep on firing the minds. “The animals are one of the four literal references that I took from Dante’s Inferno,” Roseberry explained . “In the first cycle of Dante’s journey, he faces terrors. He confronts a lion, a leopard, and a she-wolf. They each represent different things. But the lion and the animals are there as a photorealistic approaching of surrealism and trompe l’oeil in a different way.” Roseberry found a creative parallel to his dilemmas in the hellish tortures Dante allegorized. “It’s the agony of wanting to surprise,” he said. “I just want it to be powerful in a different way every time.” His ambition: to “show the impossible.” Regarding the three, now-infamous looks, I will admit they felt too costume-y for me in the first place. It’s a great shame that all the explosive attention drawn by overshadowed the extraordinary work Roseberry and his team lavished on molding, sculpting, and embellishing the majority of the collection. The waisted shape of the classic Schiaparelli Shocking! perfume bottle was transmuted into extreme hourglass silhouettes, corseted in the back. There were ‘plastrons’ of stiffly exaggerated, up-to-the-eyeline bustiers (crafted in mother-of-pearl, marquetry, and broken glass jewelry). He also dealt out incredibly silhouetted trouser suits, vertiginously plunging tuxedos, and a pinstripe which had mind-boggling lines imitating menswear fabric, but curving in and out in some visually unaccountable way. Would the collection look in overall better without the faux-animal drama? Probably. But would it grab the Internet’s attention? Of course, not.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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