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A Schiaparelli Rebirth: Paris’ Latest And Brightest Inferno

A Schiaparelli Rebirth: Paris’ Latest And Brightest Inferno

In Petit Palais, Schiaparelli launches Paris Haute Couture with their Spring 23 collection – ‘INFERNO’. A little ominous for spring, possibly, but Daniel Roseberry revives the runway with this stunning ensemble.

Many have considered Schiaparelli an avant-garde fashion house, which continued under Daniel Roseberry.

An artistic retelling of Dante Alighieri’s seminal work, every detail of the show, its audience and the choice of setting was crafted with intent, depicting an allegory deeply resonant with humanity. Roseberry frames the show’s narrative in a yin-yang concept where beauty lies in its dichotomy.

No heaven without hell, no happiness without sadness.

Three for Three

There are three beasts in Dante’s Inferno, the first instalment to the epic poem Divine Comedy: a leopard, a lion and a she-wolf — all personified into garments on this runway. The modelling household names adorned this show’s three motifs: pride, lust and avarice. They all fashioned a faux taxidermied head of a wild cat resting upon their chest. These animal busts were constructed from foam in a hyper-realist design that could fool anyone.  

Shalom Harlow adorned a snow leopard’s head, centring the bustier, with its canines glaring at the audience. Irina Shayk wore an asymmetrical bodycon, the lion’s head armoured her shoulder. It scanned the audience as she sauntered down the runway. Lastly, Naomi Campbell, the she-wolf, cloaked in a suit-style fur coat. The wolf’s head rested upon her shoulder. Yet, its expression was less conspicuous than its counterparts, its fur blending into the garment, unlike the ones prior — a complete assumption of the animal’s persona.

The brass head that took to the catwalk during the show also referred to Dante’s Giants from hell.

The most magnificent aspect of these constructions was their resemblance to reality, as surreally realistic as Schiaparelli gets. Yet, I cannot help but feel this theatrical extravagance stole the spotlight from the collection, its genius going unappreciated.

A vignette formed around these faux heads, many misguidedly interpreting it as romanticising trophy hunting. Others misconstrued their relevance entirely as the rest of the collection fell into the background. These looks prove the unnecessary nature of using animal products in fashion. If a lion head can look that realistic from foam, do you need to use real fur for your coat?

Couture Is Born Again

Of all phenomenal in this collection, the recognition must go to Roseberry’s ability to channel Elsa Schiaparelli. A homage to her; he has always done it so well. The leopard is central to Dante and a nod to the Leopard Shoe Hat, designed in 1937 in a collaboration between Elsa and Salvador Dali.

While not sporting particularly vibrant colours or patterns, the show still demonstrated a taste for the outrageous. In a political time of environmental conscience, Roseberry was brave to replicate animal heads, fur, and skin so realistically. It roused a social ruckus.

While experimenting with new techniques may have been a risk for the designer, the result appeared void of fear. In an industry reverting to minimalism, if Schiaparelli doubted this extravagant spirit of couture, questionably, it would have abandoned the religion of maximalism and followed the grain?

Structuring a Schiaparelli Spectacle

The collection also sported a variety of looks that featured exaggerated silhouettes. These included cinched waists, extreme shoulders, height and width and shield-esque bandeaus that covered the face. These highly structured looks differed from what you would expect from a collection that took inspiration from nature so much.

Despite not being what you would expect of a nature-inspired collection, these structured suits and rigid gowns worked to celebrate the jewels that were so very prominent at this show. The harsh angles created in these looks mimicked the traditional diamond shape of cut gemstones, honouring nature through the form of some of its more powerful elements.

An immediate favourite was the avant-garde bustier, created from brass branches that grew outward and shielded the model’s face. The formulaic patterns and emeralds stemmed from the model’s waist and formed a halo around her face. The uncut emeralds, resembling a peacock’s fan, foreshadowed the eventual patina of the material. It was so apt to the narrative—a subtle remark on avarice’s finite and shallow nature.

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So Many Details

Footwear furthered this transgressive collection, with most models wearing heels resembling a human foot mould. This isn’t anything new in fashion, but it was deliberate. René Magritte’s Le modèle rouge inspired its first conception, where he depicted a set of shoes imitating feet in a painting. However, the collection may deliberately reiterate Vivienne Westwood’s famous ‘Animal Toes’ heels. Roseberry’s orchestration is transparent.

Naomi Campbell delivered the final depiction and was the only model whose heels had gold embossed toes. This was the most eye-catching element of the outfit, and the model’s successful career metaphorically embellished it; all of it, a symbol of avarice. The 24k gilded toes signified the wealth of such success as merely material.

Roseberry has embodied Elsa Schiaparelli’s grandeur and thrust couture into performance art. Are the Americans putting many current European designers to shame?

While the collection depicted sin, and the story that inspired the collection centres on doubt, the show felt less doubtful and bold.

Overall, the collection set an unimaginable bar for fashion week this year. To match this level of ambition will be a challenge. The only feeling of disappointment arose from the desire to see more colour, or at least one more colour — Schiaparelli’s iconic pink. Because it is a spring collection, after all, Roseberry would’ve escaped my pedantry even with just one look.

It is genuinely uncanny that in a story of avarice and pride, the controversial ‘self-made’ billionaire Kylie Jenner sat in the front row brandishing the leopard piece Irina Shayk wore, right?

Irony aside, a collection of defiance was born from Schiaparelli’s creative universe.

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