Rosie Assoulin loves the surreal and the absurd, but never goes for gimmicks and non-sense. It’s what draws people to her designs. She can fall down the rabbit hole – quite literally this season, as her inspiration was Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll – and return with a collection of whimsical pieces that are just attainable enough for real people to want to wear them, as Sarah Spellings put it for Vogue. For spring-summer 2023, however, the biggest theme was the feeling and beauty of spring. The practical pieces were boldly colored or illustrated: a suit with green gingham shorts and a red gingham blazer; a richly illustrated brown suit adorned with flowers; bottle green shantung cargo pants, full pleated skirts, and camp-collared shirts. Dialing up the whimsy were pieces like a skirt with a buttressed waist, giving it dimension and ease at the same time. The most fun in Assoulin’s collections comes from the high-wattage capital G gowns. Through a series of ties, you can personalize the swags and layers in the gingham ball skirt to your liking. Paired with a long-sleeve crop top, it’s available for your most elaborate picnicking needs. A striking cornflower blue gown with a contrasting red belt has a keyhole neckline, a caped back, and a delicately tiered skirt reminiscent of something from the Gilded Age. In her studio, Assoulin pointed out how the tiers make seam lines that almost look like a suit in a deck of cards: an abstract spade, heart, and diamond. There’s something delightful in every fold.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
Jonathan Anderson is nailing it again, being in his surreal element. Back before Anderson started producing his in-your-face de-gendered mood-driven menswear in 2008 – the “shared wardrobe” concept that ironically led to him being practically frogmarched by his fans into expanding into in-your-face de-gendered mood-driven womenswear a few years later – he had plans to be an actor. That plan changed during an audition for Juillard in New York, where he performed a piece from the in-your-face ’90s play The Pitchfork Disney by Philip Ridley. Nearly a decade later The Pitchfork Disney, which he recently reread, was revived by Anderson as a central element in this first live Milan bow. Anderson said afterwards he’d been moved by “the shock of theater” that the play represented (some of the audience at its premiere in 1991 fainted) to shape a collection that tested our perceptions of clothing and modernity. The BMX handlebars, shattered skate decks and CDs were there to remind us of the intrinsic ephemerality of modernity, and its inevitable descent into anachronism. Anderson tried to add “eating canned goods” to this category of faded fads while speaking to the Italian press, but these pieces seemed more like witty acts of wearable assemblage. There was certainly a cheekiness to the project. The embedded bar codes made consumption provocatively both the ends and the means of engagement. “Fashion is a very modern device,” he said. “But it is not a modern act.” To underline the illusion of modernity he cast Rembrandt as the protagonist in his fashion play via intarsia reproductions on knitwear and prints on sneakers featuring the artist’s leery etching, Self-portrait in a Cap, Wide-eyed and Open-mouthed, from 1630. The nearly 400 year-old selfie stressed that while technology upgrades, the way in which we use it stays pretty constant. All these devices – along with industrial gloves, a stock photo of an apple-eating kid, and hardware-store door hinges – were placed within or adjacent to borderline generic contemporary canons of clothing. This created a have your cake and eat it result: you could wear JW Anderson-issued versions of 2023 uniform, and through those in-your-face interventions included within them simultaneously signal that you understood the narrative was entirely contingent – just a wearable moment in time.
While many are wowed by Schiaparelli‘s Daniel Roseberry and his “surrealist” jewellery boom, first check Samuel François‘ stunning works. The French stylist – who is also the fashion director of Numéro magazine – takes the jewellery medium to another reality. “It’s really just something I began for myself in a very empirical way,” he told Vogue back in 2018. The idea sort of crystallized, he explained, when he bought an Afghan ram’s-head bracelet while on vacation in Thailand. Once back home in Paris, a try at sculpting soon resulted in bronze and enamel jewelry. Not that jewelry was entirely new to him: he had worked on runway pieces for Martine Sitbon and other designers in the past, but it was the first time he had taken up a hobby just for himself. “I love styling, but we live at a frenetic pace,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss a chance to do something more personal and whimsical. I guess it’s kind of my way of showing that I can do something besides putting clothes together nicely.” François describes his aesthetic as a cross-pollination of his love for fashion and a passion for the city of Naples, with its jumble of antiquity and mythology and one destination in particular, Nathalie de Saint Phalle’s boutique hotel, the Albergo del Purgatori. The statement earrings, bracelets, and plate necklaces feature enamel surrealist teary-eyed motifs and macabre skulls, as well as gilded leaves and mouths molded from goldened bronze. For more of his works, check out Samuel’s website!
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.
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.