Under Daniel Roseberry’s reign at Schiaparelli, the maison has remained firm in its absurdist resolve.
However, for the luxury house’s Spring/Summer 2023 Haute Couture collection, a social media inferno was catalysed after the designer sent a suite of taxidermy-like animal heads down the runway and in the front row.
The head of a lion, a leopard and a she-wolf was affixed to asymmetrical velvet gowns, jet black coats and a faux fur strapless gowns and earned the ire of the internet in its wake.
In an act of symbolism, Roseberry took influence from the demons Dante faces in the 1308 magnus opus Inferno—the text that inspired this collection— making a case for the spectacular as a vessel for surrealism.
These animal heads aren’t real, but it hasn’t stopped social media from criticising the creations for perpetuating the harming of animals.
The leopard, the lion, and the she-wolf—representing lust, pride, and avarice, respectively—find form here in spectacular faux-taxidermy creations, constructed entirely by hand, from foam, resin, and other manmade materials,” Roseberry said in a press release.
The symbolism of these apex predators—the very top of the food chain and rulers of the animal kingdom—worn by three of the most prolific supermodels of our generation, Shalom Harlow, Naomi Campbell and Irina Shayk, wasn’t lost on anyone. Kylie Jenner even sported the lion dress in the front row.
Regardless of Roseberry’s intention to “blurring the lines between the real and the unreal”, the shock and the spectacle of the move has been criticised for conflating animal as the ultimate form of luxury.
Haute couture has long been regarded as the preeminent standard of design, craftsmanship and execution. The binary between art, craft and fashion is a trope that designers often explore in these collection, and for Schiaparelli this hyperrealism isn’t something that is out of their forte.
But in a world where the mass extinction of animals is a very real danger, many are arguing what place these decapitated heads have in fashion?
It’s a catch 22.
One one hand, fashion is an industry that is reliant on spectacle and coup de théâtre to generate capital—Coperni’s viral spray on dress is another recent example of this—so the act of sending something polarising down the runway isn’t unusual.
There’s no doubting that the creation of these hyperreal pieces of art from scratch is nothing short of laudable, but there has to be further consideration about what message Schiaparelli is trying to send.
Irrespective of Roseberry’s intention, there is a case to be made about the show glamorising animal hunting.
Following the show, PETA released a statement commending Roseberry for the ensembles, writing the looks “celebrate lions’ beauty and may be a statement against trophy hunting, in which lion families are torn apart to satisfy human egotism”.
It’s a message that Roseberry claimed himself, writing in the press release that “mimicry (is that a real lion?) becomes its own form of Surrealism in this collection, such that you’re never quite sure who made the piece you’re looking at—was it nature? Or was it man?”
With Roseberry’s modus operandi blurring the lines between reality and illusion, you can certainly credit him for achieving this titanic coup de grâce.