“In difficult times fashion is always outrageous“, Elsa Schiaparelli once said. Daniel Roseberry believes so as well – his latest, fabulously dramatic haute couture collection for Schiaparelli is the best proof for that. Visitors at the brand’s Place Vendôme salons are greeted by a lavish wedding gown. Typically, couture shows end with the bride, but Daniel Roseberry gave pride of place to the dress constructed from 70 meters of white cartridge pleated taffeta. “We’ve had so many requests from clients who come looking for this irreverent grandeur that we’ve been doing,” he said. Roseberry’s bride is not the shy, retiring type, but she is representative of what the designer described as the “new kind of prettiness” he was after this season. If this collection is as intense as his past outings, it’s a shade or two less irreverent. There are none of the molded leather six-pack abs corsets that were the defining looks of his last couture, for example. He came at prettiness in several different ways. Following on from that entrance-making bride is a salon devoted to embroidered jackets. These borrow as much from Lacroix and Jean Paul Gaultier as they do from Schiaparelli, with their curvaceous shapes, Versailles colors, and cone bra references. One black jacket blooms with pink silk roses, an ode to a collaboration between Schiap and Jean Cocteau circa 1937. Others are embellished with decades-old gold Schiaparelli threads that the embroiderer Lesage had saved in its stockpiles. All of them are trophies, perhaps especially the denim jacket that’s patch-worked from 11 pairs of used Levi’s sourced at a local vintage store – the very essence of haute friperie. Where this season’s jackets have a delicious propriety, a sculpted gold flower corset worn with a skirt barely clinging to the hips, and a scoop-front dress with a breastplate made of gold-dipped bronchi – the lungs being a locus of our attention in the pandemic – are more provocative. A silver bustier is accessorized by a fringed stole made from shredded black garbage bags, of all things. That’s couture heresy – and fabulously so. For the dessert, a cocktail dress punctuated by a shocking pink rose, a strapless black gown featuring a bust-line shaped like fiery orange lips with a matching train, and a voluminous infanta gown in a shade of lavender Roseberry said that he’s never used before. In his two years at Schiaparelli, he’s only doubled-down on the surreal glamour this historic house is known for. Turns out, he’s very good at pretty, too.
Daniel Roseberry has already proven that he’s a genius haute couture designer. With his autumn-winter 2021 collection for Schiaparelli, he also confirms he knows how to make ready-to-wear a ‘wow’ moment. “I really like the freedom in which Schiap explored things,” Roseberry told Vogue over Zoom. “You know, while Chanel was making buttons made out of double C’s and it was very much an exercise in branding, Schiap’s buttons were peanuts and wrenches and hammers and birds and insects. It’s kind of this referential gymnastics that I feel like we can have here, as long as it feels like part of one world and one language. People know they can go other places for more polite designs.” If Roseberry has more freedom than his creative director predecessors that’s largely down to the fact that Lady Gaga wore his designs at the U.S. inauguration. Overnight, as he put it in the days afterward, Roseberry had a place in fashion history, and the label itself had a new international relevance and cachet. The dove brooch (it reminds the pieces Yves Saint Laurent sent down the runway in his spring-summer 1988 couture collection) that Lady Gaga wore to the inauguration has become a visual trope; it perches on the shoulder of a fitted black minidress among several other surreal bijoux and its outline is painted in black on a white button-down. Instant Insta-favourites are of course all the “body-ornaments”: the breasts and pierced nipples, ears, eyes, noses, and lips – all of it has been cast in gold, moulded in leather, or quilted in wool crepe. “I don’t want to be precious about any part of the body; you know, it’s about kind of celebrating the whole thing,” he said. But Roseberry is no doubt well aware that breasts are a cultural flashpoint. Exploiting that flashpoint, he managed to render all the other designers playing with lingerie and kink this season look tame. The fashion industry urgently needs a provocateur, and Daniel is the ultimate answer.
Schiaparelli and Daniel Roseberry are a match made in heaven. The way the Texas-born designer plays with Elsa Schiaparelli’s codes is so witty and intelligent – and what’s most important, he makes it his and doesn’t try to mimic the maison‘s founder as his predecessors. Spring-summer 2021 couture line-up is his best yet, and truly, it transports the viewer to a wonderland. And since Lady Gaga wore a black fitted jacket, red silk faille ball skirt and a golden dove brooch of his design to sing the national anthem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration last Wednesday, it’s clear more people will pay attention to Roseberry’s magic. “For a house like Schiaparelli,” he told Vogue, “dressing Gaga for the inauguration speaks to capturing the moment. That’s what I’m trying to do with all of our celebrity moments: to nail the zeitgeist.” Daniel’s Schiaparelli is open to big celebrity moments (Kim Kardashian West and Hunter Schafer, for instance), but it also breaks couture conventions and says ‘bye’ to the haute stuffiness once and for all. He’d been pushing the house, which was quite straitlaced before his arrival despite Elsa Schiaparelli’s famous Surrealism, in a new direction. But the eccentricities of his earlier outings were just him warming up. “Ever since I came back from lockdown, there’s been a shift for me mentally here – a focus and confidence that’s come from my relationship to my own process and to the atelier,” he said. Synthesizing his point of view, he added, “it’s just something that’s not as polite as couture typically tends to be.” If there’s one piece that says his incubation period is over, it’s a Madonna and Child breastplate, but there’s no shortage of statement-making bijoux here, from the tooth pearl earrings to the fingernail rings. “It isn’t about being too perfect for me,” Roseberry said, “but it is about shutting the moment down.” On that note, the look book opens with another super-heroine bustier, this one in glossy black finished with a prodigious bow in Schiaparelli’s signature shocking pink. A different dress in the same electric pink hue accentuates not just gym-toned abs, but trapezius muscles and biceps. “If you want to look like a cupcake, you can go somewhere else,” Roseberry said with a laugh before getting serious. “I started thinking, is there something about couture that’s sort of misogynistic, that demands or expects that a woman wants to look hyper-feminine and dainty and ‘Bridgerton’ adjacent?” He clarifies, “It’s not about being a man at all, it’s about being a jacked woman.” A stretch-fabric dress knitted with more than 200,000 Swarovski crystals will appeal to clients whose own well-maintained physiques require no surface-level enhancements. Elsewhere, Roseberry made exuberant use of volume. A black column dress with ample folded sleeves would make a spectacular red carpet dress, but he also designed a couture jean jacket and a couture parka with grand hoods. The contemporary Schiaparelli woman is no longer just an arty party-goer. Now, she’s a goddess, hero, a power-female!
In a pretty short time, Daniel Roseberry has pushed Schiaparelli – a haute couture maison – forward to an extent in which its ready-to-wear line finally makes sense. Roseberry’s flair for the fantastic absolutely works with Elsa Schiaparelli’s aesthetic, and in the spring-summer 2021 line-up he manages to negotiate the balance between the Surrealism that was the legendary designer’s signature and the everyday. Speaking over Zoom, he said he approached the new collection with “a renewed energy to focus on what I want to say here, to capture the irony and what Schiap was about. Her legacy still lives really large, and it feels really true to this moment.” The pandemic has upended fashion. Some designers and brands are sitting this season out or playing it extra safe, counting on pajama sets and tracksuits to carry them through. Not Roseberry. In the look book photos he took himself (it’s interesting that many designers choose to photograph their collections), and in the behind-the-scenes video the brand produced, that extroversion comes across most distinctly in Roseberry’s fabulous gilded jewellery: eyeglasses with enamel eyes in the center, masks that cover nose and mouth, fingertip talons, and even nipple buttons. Those little and big, wearable artworks took Instagram by storm. The clothes are nearly as provocative. See: the white button-down with hand-painted breasts on the front, the odalisque prints on a shocking pink and white pantsuit (studies of Manet and Degas that Roseberry did himself), and the broderie anglaise with Surrealist faces picked out. There’s also a pair of minidresses, one ivory, the other black, with big inverted volumes. Roseberry took no half measures with this collection, and in this time of uncertainty and anxiety, that kind of conviction is a real turn-on – something we’ve experienced as well at Jonathan Anderson’s extraordinary Loewe.
Despite the name Daniel Roseberry gave his autumn-winter 2020 collection for Schiaparelli – the “Dreamer in Daytime” – the designer included some couture-like flourishes for evening, including a stretch-leather bodysuit worn with a full skirt with a cartridge-pleated waistband – athletic and easy to wear – and a silk faille party dress with detachable sleeves. “I love the idea of a modular ball gown,” he explained to the press back in March, reinforcing the idea that these clothes are designed to feel relaxed – “very chill.” And simultaneously precious.