Carrie Johnson has accused an Italian fashion house of promoting trophy hunting after supermodels wore life-sized fake animal heads on the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week.
The show from Schiaparelli was billed as a haute couture exploration of Dante's inferno featuring depictions of the poem's three beasts - a lion, a leopard and a wolf.
A black dress featuring a faux lion’s head adorning the front was modelled by Irina Shayk, while Naomi Campbell modelled a black faux fur coat with a wolf's head emerging from the left shoulder.
Canadian model Shalom Harlow wore a strapless snow leopard dress with a fake leopard’s head emerging from the bust.
The lion’s head dress was also worn by model and celebrity Kylie Jenner, who attended the show.
But the show caused environmentalists, including Carrie Johnson, to accuse the fashion brand of “promoting trophy hunting” by using the fake animal heads.
Ms Johnson posted online about the show, with the message: “Grim! Real or fake this just promotes trophy hunting. Yuck”.
The show has also been condemned as “disturbing” by photographer Misan Harriman, who has previously shot portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Schiaparelli's creative director Daniel Roseberry said that the pieces, constructed by hand from foam resin and other man-made materials, were a form of “faux-taxidermy”.
He added that the poem was an “allegory of doubt” where the narrator, Dante’s stand-in, and also called Dante “is almost exactly middle-aged at the narrative’s beginning”, when he finds himself “midway upon the journey of our life.”
“And yet as he climbs deeper into hell, he realises just how little he actually knows—all those years, all that life, and yet he remains in that 'dark wood,' the path he had once walked so surely vanished from sight,” he added.
“The leopard, the lion, and the she-wolf—representing lust, pride, and avarice, respectively—find form here in spectacular faux-taxidermy creations,” he wrote in his notes for the show.
The show focused on the animals as three of Dante’s most “arresting images” he said, as well as exploring the idea of how imagery can easily deceive the viewer, with three looks created for each of the nine circles of hell.
Ms Jenner also drew criticism on social media after she sat in the front row of the show wearing a black dress adorned with one of Schiaparelli's life-sized and uncannily realistic lion heads.
Separately, Doja Cat’s appearance drew much attention from the front row, with the artist painted red and covered in tens of thousands of Swarovski crystals.
Former South African MP Phumzile van Damme said the show demonstrated why “the fashion industry needs to take a step back and reassess its ethics”.
“First, we had the Balenciaga scandal and now this from Schiaparelli. This normalises, gives a glint of acceptability and makes canned- and trophy hunting of endangered species 'trendy'. Faux or not, it's in bad taste,” she said.
In November 2022, fashion brand Balenciaga hit the headlines when its Christmas campaign featured children holding cuddly toys wearing bondage gear, prompting calls to boycott the brand. The fashion house later apologised for the campaign.
Ingrid Newkirk, founder of animal rights charity PETA US, said that Schiaparelli’s animal heads were “fabulously innovative” and showed that “where there’s a will, there’s a way—and Kylie’s look celebrates lions’ beauty and may be a statement against trophy hunting, in which lion families are torn apart to satisfy human egotism”.
She added that PETA would urge Ms Jenner to also exclude wool and silk products from her fashion purchases and said that consumers should opt for “100 per cent cruelty-free designs that showcase human ingenuity and prevent animal suffering”.