The Paris haute couture season got off to a controversial start with Daniel Roseberry’s Schiaparelli’s show on Monday. The collection, inspired by Dante’s Inferno, a work about seeking enlightenment, featured several spectacular animal heads sewn onto garments. They were a representation of Dante's journey to find his way to heaven when he is stopped by three beasts: a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf.
Front row editors took to Instagram to hail the genius of Mr Roseberry’s creativity, which model Irina Shayk wearing a one sleeve gown with an oversized lion appearing to be mid-roar, boldly displayed across her chest and shoulder. A near identical lion’s head gown was worn by reality star and beauty entrepreneur Kylie Jenner, who sat in the audience. The New York Times Tweeted Ms Jenner had arrived ‘with a friend.’
Naomi Campbell wore a black faux fur coat with a wolf protruding from its shoulder. Such was the canny realism of these animals that on first sight the craftsmanship was painstakingly of another level. Mr Roseberry detailed the process on his Instagram account, how a base of hand-sculpted foam, wool and silk faux fur was painted so life-like, celebrating the glory of the natural world.
A celebration of the natural world fell flat
Diet Prada, the perennial Instagram account known for its cancel culture moda operandi, commented on the collection’s incredible taxidermy-level of quality, posting a selection of ‘best’ looks.
What subsequently ensued, however, was a social media uproar, pardon the pun, with users responding in a way that presumably neither fashion account, nor brand, predicted: “We have to stop showing animals as luxury products,” said one user. Another wrote “you don’t celebrate the glory of the nature world by wearing it like a tacky trophy.” The surrealism fell flat for others, who said a lot of species have been ‘stamped out’ by humans, finding such representation in fashion unnecessary.
As thousands of comments began to flood Schiaparelli’s Instagram, the majority of Instagram accounts questioned the concept of glorifying dead animals, with fashion followers quick to explain the surrealist dna of the Schiaparelli brand, arguing every fake fur coat or accessory would then be a target.
Hail back to 2018, when Gucci presented a show with models carrying life-like replicas of their heads, eery life-like figures recalled cephalophores, martyred saints who carry their own heads. It was controversial but certainly did not receive the same backlash as Roseberry’s animal heads.
Haute couture is a celebration of craftsmanship and for a Maison to succeed it needs to dazzle clients to spend tens of thousands of euros on its designs. While the heads may have been a shocking choice of symbolism, they iterate the house’s incredible techniques and talent, and unintentionally overshadowed the rest of the collection, which had moments of superb craft, like a cream pearl-embroidered cropped jacket or a column gown that featured a front panel bathed in paillettes.
Will Schiaparelli’s paying customers be put off by a social media storm? Probably not.