The Spring/Summer 2023 Paris Couture Week season kicked off with a bang yesterday morning when Schiaparelli’s Daniel Roseberry debuted a series of dresses featuring amazing, hyper-realistic animal heads protruding from the shoulders and bust. Irina Shayk wore such a dress for the opening of the show, and Kylie Jenner sat in the same style in the front row. From certain angles, it looks like Jenner is literally kissing a lion, its mane brushing against her contoured cheeks.
Their realism seems to have polarized the internet, with several commentators mistaking fake heads for real taxidermy. The confusion is intentional; in the program notes, Roseberry wrote, “Mimicry (is it a real lion?) becomes its own form of surrealism in this collection, so that you’re never quite sure who made the work you’re looking at – was it nature?”
Not everyone was outraged. Designers and stylists such as Adam Selman, Karla Welch and Marc Jacobs called these looks “triumphs”, praising Roseberry as a “genius” on Instagram, where they showed their support with loads of heart emoticons. On fashion Twitter, many saw the entire collection as a meticulous display of brilliance. One user announced: “THIS IS COUTURE!”
Given that many of the fashion houses in the industry, such as Versace and Gucci, have recently pledged to stop using fur, the choice to create dresses that look like safari booty is drawing backlash. And while the lion’s head – as well as the leopard and she-wolf seen on Shalom Harlow and Naomi Campbell’s runway – were creations of man-made taxidermy, made entirely by hand from artificial materials such as foam and resin, the internet wasn’t happy. Commenters on Instagram not only asked, “Is this a real lion?” as predicted by Roseberry, but also “Why does it have to look like a real lion?” (Jenner seems to have already known the comments were coming, with an Instagram caption highlighting the “artificial” nature of her dress.)
Roseberry saw them as representing protection, writing on his Instagram that they are: “They celebrate the glory of nature and guard the woman who wears them.” The entire collection was inspired by Dante’s Inferno, where the leopard, lion and she-wolf serve as allegories of lust, pride and greed.
This season, Roseberry also wanted to play with the concept of doubt, specifically “the doubt of creation and the doubt of intent. Twin, sometimes conflicting impulses to please the audience and impress each other; ambivalence, which is a constant companion of every artist. “
There is no doubt that he has succeeded in challenging himself with the new techniques he has already mastered. In his Instagram post, where he shared behind-the-scenes photos of the fake taxidermy process, no details were spared. You can practically see the taste buds on the she-wolf’s tongue. But his superb technique seems to have divided even his die-hard fans on Instagram, where Roseberry is a fashion darling; many commentators have stated that these works glorify the hunting and use of animals as trophies, no matter how astonishing the craft.
The reaction to the show is reminiscent of both Dante’s hell and the clothes, which perhaps was the point all along. Roseberry knew he could be eaten by the wolves of the internet – which is probably the 10th circle of hell – for this, and he seems pleased about it, concluding his program notes with the words: “I remember that no ascension to heaven is possible without first traveling to fire and the fear that comes with it. Let me always embrace it.
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