Paris Couture Week's spring/summer 2023 season opened with a roar yesterday morning, when Schiaparelli's Daniel Roseberry debuted a series of gowns mounted with eerie, hyper-realistic animal heads bursting from the shoulder and bust. Irina Shayk wore such a dress to open the show, and Kylie Jenner sat front row in the same look. From some angles, it looks like Jenner is quite literally nuzzling a lion, its mane brushing against her contoured cheeks.
Their realism seems to have polarised the internet, with several commenters mistaking the faux heads for real taxidermy. The confusion is intentional; in the show notes for the show, Roseberry wrote, "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?"
Not everyone was outraged. Designers and stylists like Adam Selman, Karla Welch and Marc Jacobs called the looks a "triumph", praising Roseberry as a "genius" on Instagram, where they showed their support with a slew of heart emojis. Over on fashion twitter, many saw the entire collection as a meticulous display of brilliance. One user proclaimed: "THIS IS COUTURE!"
Considering that many fashion houses in the industry, such as Versace and Gucci, have recently vowed to stop using fur, the choice to make dresses that look like safari spoils feels rife for backlash. And even though the lion's head—and the leopard and she-wolf seen on Shalom Harlow and Naomi Campbell on the runway—were faux-taxidermy creations, constructed entirely by hand from manmade materials like foam and resin, the internet wasn't happy. Instagram commenters didn't just ask "Is that a real lion?" as Roseberry had predicted 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 that emphasises the "faux" nature of her gown.)
Roseberry saw them as representing protection, writing on his Instagram that they are, "Celebrating the glory of nature and guarding the woman who wears it." The entire collection was inspired by Dante's Inferno, where the leopard, the lion, and the she-wolf serve as allegories for lust, pride, and avarice.
Roseberry also wanted to play with the concept of doubt this season, specifically, "the doubt of creation and the doubt of intent. The twinned, sometimes contradictory impulses to please one’s audience and to impress oneself; the ambivalence that is every artist’s constant companion."
There's no doubt he succeeded by challenging himself with new techniques he's already seemed to master. In his Instagram post, where he shared behind-the-scenes process images of the faux-taxidermy, it's evident no detail was spared. You can practically see the tastebuds on the she-wolf's tongue. But his exquisite technique seems to have divided even his diehard fans on Instagram, where Roseberry is a couture darling; many commenters have said the pieces glorify hunting and using animals as trophies, no matter how astonishing the craftsmanship.
The reaction to the show feels as much a take on Dante's Inferno as the clothing, which was perhaps the point all along. Roseberry knew he could be thrown to the wolves of the internet—which is arguably the tenth circle of hell—for this and appears to be welcoming it, ending his show notes with: "I remember that no ascension to heaven is possible without first a trip to the fires, and the fear that comes with it. Let me embrace it always."
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