“Shocking! The Surreal World of Elsa Schiaparelli,” the high-impact exhibition opening this week at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, includes pieces that fellow designers – among them Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier, Azzedine Alaïa, and Christian Lacroix – created in homage to the house’s founding genius. For this season’s Schiaparelli haute couture collection, Daniel Roseberry, the house’s artistic director, took this idea of “being in conversation with the people who had been so inspired by her.” Earlier this year Roseberry had an in-person conversation with Lacroix himself, “which was really inspiring,” as Roseberry noted during final fittings on the eve of his show. “We talked about color, we talked about volume. We talked about Arles, and for him it meant black bulls, white horses, and the gold of the sun, which just kept ringing in my ear. It was probably, for him, a passing conversation, but for me it felt like someone plugged me into the wall a little bit, and I wanted to make a collection that brought me back to the kind of fashion that I fell in love with and that period of fashion that feels, in retrospect, very naive in a way.” And so Roseberry evoked the euphoria of Christian Lacroix’s 1987 debut collection with its giddy pouf silhouette, bustles, gigot sleeves, coruscating toreador embroideries, and severe matador hats. For Roseberry, ’80s nostalgia is in the air. But the collection was also informed, as Roseberry confided, “by the way Elsa dressed herself,” which meant rigorous tailoring. That was exemplified by the coatdress worn by Carolyn Murphy with trompe l’oeil drawers for pockets – a detail that Salvador Dalí himself conceived for Schiap and now a piece that will go directly from the runway to the museum exhibition – and what Roseberry described as “this sort of sensual body-conscious and body-obsessed eveningwear, everything built around the bustier and the corset.” Some sprouted with floral displays inspired by Carolyne Roehm’s book A Passion for Flowers, a copy of which sat on Roseberry’s grandmother’s coffee table when he was an impressionable boy. Seen up close these were remarkable triumphs of embroidery – sunflowers and roses and lavender fronds crafted from hand-painted and sequined silk and even leather molded onto the back of spoons to create the petals. They instantly reminded me of Yves Saint Laurent’s spectacular spring-summer 1988 couture show, where jackets became tableau vivants of sunflowers and irises. A simple black velvet evening dress that looked like one of Roseberry’s dramatic fashion sketches come to life was brought into Schiaparelli’s madcap world thanks to a pair of earrings dripping bunches of golden grapes and so heavy that they had to be secured with a discreet tiara hair band. Meanwhile, Stephen Jones’s magnificent wide-brimmed hats bristled with what looked like fields of wheat that on close inspection turned out to have been simulated with glycerinated ostrich feathers. It was all, as Roseberry himself promised, a “mash-up between something that felt incredibly modern and then also wildly romantic.” Hopeful doves of peace (another YSL reference) brought some much-needed optimism to 2022’s disturbing state of things. All of it certainly left the audience on a high.
Fierce, bold, shocking – that’s how one might describe Daniel Roseberry‘s Schiaparelli, now known and loved for magnificent couture, surreal molded leather torso bags and jewellery that is all about human anatomy. The ready-to-wear business is blooming as well – something that makes the designer’s position among Parisian insiders and maisons even more important. Autumn-winter 2022 was his most relatable collection so far, rooted in denim embroidered with the illustrations he did for the tablecloths at a Bergdorf Goodman dinner last autumn, and knits that included riffs on Schiap’s famous trompe l’oeil intarsias. Roseberry pointed out that ready-to-wear came first for Schiaparelli and couture only after she’d achieved some level of success. As synonymous as she is with surrealism, the woman had a pragmatic streak. No one would mistake Roseberry for a maker of basics, but there’s an American honesty to the jeans here with their double S’s on the back pockets, and to stretch velvet and stretch leather pieces that take their shapes from athletic wear. As a native of Dallas, Roseberry grew up in and around these kinds of clothes. Likewise, he connects with the energetic, American vibe of Herb Ritts’s photos, which certain images in this lookbook were designed to reflect. But he’s just as fluent in kinky Parisian excess – as the embellished cone bras make clear, he relishes it. The only thing questionable is the punk-y, PVC headwear and masks.
If there’s a real sense of return in the air at this season’s haute couture shows, Daniel Roseberry’s collection for Schiaparelli will be its defining memory. Passing through the Petit Palais, each of his looks was as intriguing to the senses as the inspiration behind them. “There’s this word in French for when you’re driving on a cliffside and you have the sudden urge to go off the road. It’s called ‘the call of the void,’” he said during a preview the day before. In French, the term is l’appel du vide and it’s not as hopeless as it sounds. Psychologically, it’s an intrusive thought that affirms our urge to live. “I think that’s what this spaciness felt like to me,” he explained, surrounded by orbital dresses and planetary bags in his Place Vendôme salons. “The void is the absence of this reality.” In times of refuelled space races, missions to Mars, and the metaverse, Roseberry is not alone in looking to galaxies far way. It’s a mindset that comes natural at Schiaparelli where surrealism goes hand-in-hand with existentialism. If you can use the word effortless in haute couture, that’s what Roseberry’s collection felt like: a seamlessly executed idea for a house it was just right for. “We kept saying ‘Planet Schiaparelli’: I wanted to do something that looked totally unlike anybody else. Nothing else should look like this.”
Roseberry exercised his objective in creations forged in the images of the galaxy and the science fiction we relate to it. Quite literally, saturnian brass rings orbited around a black canvas corset bodice woven with black flowers in jacquard, and encircled a gilded metal bustier that wasn’t just for show. Like previous seasons’ breastplates, Schiaparelli will cast them on the client’s body in-house. A Medusa dress debuted a new technique developed for the collection in which wet gold leather had been stretched and moulded over clay sculptures of the house’s emblems-the lock, the lobster, the dove—which had then been latticed into a mind-blowing jeweled cage and encrusted with cabochon stones from the 1930s. A series of structures evoked the movement of jelly fish, which in turn evoked James Cameron’s The Abyss. A matter of exposed crin gathered around the shoulders of a minidress in black silk crepe and bounced like tentacles as the model moved down the runway of the Petit Palais. A similar effect took form around the ankles of a strapless velvet dress, and in the brass tentacles that vibrated around Mariacarla Boscono’s long black jersey dress. Interestingly, if you removed the science fiction elements, you’d be left with a series of sophisticated black dresses more lightly imbued with what Roseberry referred to as “aerodynamic” details, like the stretched-out neckline of Kiki Wilhelm’s black twill bustier.
That sense of simplicity was the intention. After a year of celebrity exposure that has catapulted Roseberry’s look for Schiaparelli into the consciousness of a new audience he wanted to pull back. “Let’s take a deep breath and start refining the language,” he’d told his team. “How do we illicit the same emotional response that we get from the couture without volume and without color?” It’s why – stripped to their core – his little dresses and jackets were almost down-to-earth in a collection literally based on the opposite. It was a clever way for Roseberry to unite anticipations for Schiaparelli grandeur with expectations for something new. Of course, Roseberry isn’t dialing down on exposure. The day before the show he had fitted Julia Fox in a denim cone bra jacket to wear to the Kenzo show with Kanye West. The new couple also attended Roseberry’s show, with West in one of his masks that completely covered his face looking as existentially stirring as the collection itself. Maybe it’s Roseberry’s genuine affinity for pop culture that makes his haute couture feel so fresh. In its fusion of stupefying craftsmanship, splendor, and consistent sense of humor, the show kind of evoked a time when the likes of Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Thierry Mugler – may he rest in peace – opened Paris’s eyes to a different kind of fashion theater.
“People are coming to us as an alternative to the mass luxury houses,” said Daniel Roseberry said of his extraordinary take on Schiaparelli. “They’re looking for something really strong.” So that’s what he’s prepared for spring-summer 2022. Schiaparelli’s Place Vendôme salons were organized by room, and first up was Roseberry’s wildly imaginative bijoux of body parts – ears, nose, eyes, lips, pierced nipples, and so on – and leather bags embellished with the same. His exaltation of the human form also took the shape of a gold-dipped resin bib molded from a model’s torso and suspended from a chain. There’s an inflatable black leather bolero and matching belt, as well as an inflatable parka, complete with air valves; a fitted knit dress with raised details in the form of Salvador Dalí’s famous rib cage dress; and cone bras à la Gaultier every which way: in leather, denim, and silk arranged in swirls like the petals of a flower. The vibe, Roseberry said, was “David Lynch holiday.” Tailoring and outerwear, meanwhile, were classically cut, but treated to all manner of gilded body part baubles. Many of the cocktail numbers had their beginnings in the couture, including a pair of sublimely draped black silk charmeuse dresses suspended from gold chokers. A cropped but boxy bolero with outsize lapels had a different starting point, Roseberry said. It was based on the jacket he made for playwright Jeremy O. Harris to wear to the Tonys last month. The words Schiap Hotel were stitched around the hem of a densely embellished bathrobe. I’m off to the plage de Schiap.
“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.