“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.
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.
Comparing to his chaotic debut collection last June, Daniel Roseberry‘s take on Schiaparelli for spring-summer 2020 is sublime. S-U-B-L-I-M-E. For this couture line-up, the American designer decided to focus on the “double fantasy” of Elsa Schiaparelli’s style. He began planning the collection by looking at images of Elsa at work in her studio dressed in her inventive, but pragmatic daytime outfits. These he contrasted with “the incredible Surrealist parties that she used to throw – this idea of the woman who dresses for herself during the day but then there’s this duality at night where it becomes performative. I became obsessed with the contradictory personality, the introvert-extrovert idea,” he continued, “trying to embrace those two different extremes and remove all the middle, and do something that feels uniquely Schiap and personal.” Roseberry also looked at the designer’s 1930s friends and collaborators, including the minimalist Deco Moderne furniture and interior designer Jean-Michel Frank (for a daytime palette of cerused oak and parchment that he mixed with navy and cigar brown) and Alberto Giacometti (for the skeletal jewels and rhinestone “bone” embellishments that also referenced Schiaparelli’s own shocking padded jersey skeleton evening dress of 1938). Roseberry has had the opportunity to focus on tailoring (always important in Schiaparelli’s own work) and the collection opened with some stylish options for the couture client who actually works. The “psycho chic” day clothes, as Roseberry described them, morphed into evening pieces that evoked Schiap’s dreams (dreams that his program notes explained “were active, propulsive, exuberant, extravagant, rebellious, ambitious”) and nodded to Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Lacroix’s ’80s and ’90s couture work in striking ultramarine, scarlet, viridian, and of course the brand’s own shocking pink. Schiaparelli is finally back on its track. Roseberry is a wonder.
“I see their era as the beginning of the liberation of women,” Bertrand Guyon commented on such female creatives as Nancy Cunard and Anaïs Nin. But it wasn’t about Schiaparelli garments these women used to wear – it was about their timeless sense of freedom and independence. Since his first days at Elsa Schiaparelli’s maison, Guyon’s work was slammed by the critics, because of his too great attachment to the brand’s heavy archives. This season, he decided to loosen it up and go with his own flow. And that was the right thing to do, as this was his best collection up to date. Remarkable evening-wear spanned from a long-sleeved gown in burgundy to a fantastical white tulle bride dress (which served as a closing look). Little details, like trompe l’oeil-effect embellishments and Picasso-esque prints on bolero jackets. A tiny whimsical dress of Swarovski chainmail paired with Victorian boots. Chic, chic, chic.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki (backdrop: George Sowden’s illustration).
Being a creative director of Schiaparelli is hard, noting Elsa Schiaparelli’s extremely idiosyncratic and characteristic legacy. We’ve all observed how Bertrand Guyonstruggled with the splendour of archives and references during his last two seasons, simply re-designing Elsa’s famous gowns and costumes. But for autumn-winter 2016, it seems that Guyon decided to sit down in a calm place while designing the new collection, which, in fact, isn’t a laid-back topic.
Schiaparelli’s famous summer 1938 circus show was in Guyon’s mind throughout the creative process, keeping it toned and, at a first glance, simple. The first looks were quite surprisingly elegant – black dresses with Old Hollywood style cuts and shoulders, hand-painted smokings. So chic. Then, it got even better, as the cocktail dress with a Picasso-esque bustier emerged. Back in the times, Schiaparelli expressed a true rhapsody of surreal beauty in fashion, and this collection proved that Bertrand can do Elsa’s thing, too. A velvet, butterfly-wing shaped jacket; colourful mink jacket; sequined ball-dresses. It’s a circus inspired collection, so naturally it was impossible not to spot meticulously embroidered peacocks and other animals. Every piece from this collection is a work of art. Indeed, that’s haute couture.