Schiaparelli gone wild!
For their Spring/Summer 2023 Couture show, creative director Daniel Roseberry’s phony Schiaparelli taxidermy sculptures became viral online – and it was expected that they would quickly develop a contentious life of their own.
The Divine Comedy, written by Dante Alighieri in the 14th century, is a 14,233-line poem broken into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Roseberry claims that in Inferno, “the leopard, the lion, and the she-wolf—representing desire, pride, and avarice” particularly affected him. He says that the lifelike animal heads were a reference to Dante’s “Inferno,” with each beast standing for a certain sin. The designs were all man-made out of faux fur, foam, and resin.
One of the controversial looks from the collection making rounds in social media is one that portrayed a lifelike lion’s head, simultaneously worn by Irina Shayk on the runway and Kylie Jenner on the front row.
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Although the works are heavily inspired by Dante’s “Inferno” allegory, the inspiration for the looks can be missed by some. “It’s sickening to see the images of these endangered animals in the form of pelts! It looks as though the models picked up the cruel hunters carpet and severed head wrapped them around themselves to be viewed as a stylish thing of beauty,” penned model Christie Brinkley on the haute couture house’s Instagram.
“I mean the planet is dying and I think we’re past the point of putting animals on clothes in this way. This one was a massive fail for me,” stated author Aja Barker.
While the heads were all fake, the way they looked and the message they may carry about glamorizing trophy hunting, animal abuse, and colonial sadism divided and worried environmentalists, animal rights activists, and most especially, social media users.
Instagram fashion watchdog Diet Prada (@diet_prada) approves of the collection, specifically the luxury house’s craftsmanship. “The house’s history of surrealism was on full display too, in pieces inspired by the beasts of Dante’s Inferno–big cats and wolves sculpted seamlessly into coats and dresses were almost taxidermy-level in quality (they’re made of foam and fiber), and Kylie Jenner was in the front row already sporting one with a lion head.” The account continued, “Whether the sight of these trickles your fancy or enrages you, the craftmanship is hard to deny.”
While the post was of praise, the comments section had more of a mixed response: A number of users’ argument against Roseberry’s collection lies within the bounds of animal cruelty, or rather, the perspective of animal cruelty, considering the resin heads’ image is hyper-realistic, which undoubtedly comes into play with the controversy. With the arguments comes the counter-argument: some users defend the collection, stating that it is “surreal”, “fake or faux”, “couture creative”, and most importantly, “only a costume”. Still, it is essential to understand that the layman person will not understand fully of surrealism nor fashion nor art. Further, it is true that many animals are still being hunted and killed to this day, thus something to take into consideration. The beauty of social media is the freedom to share opinions; the ugliness of it, is that some take it as fact.
It’s important to keep in mind that the purpose of Couture Week is not to present safe concepts, much less wearable everyday garments; The goal for designers is to push the limits of workmanship, craftsmanship, and technology; for celebrities, it’s a chance to express their stylistic inventiveness; and finally, for buyers and clients, it’s a way to nourish themselves with an exclusive collectible. It is what designers dream to do, their expensive playground, their opportunity to flex their creativity. For them, and for all, this is what fashion is: pure art.
Even PETA, which has long opposed the use of genuine fur and leather in fashion, was a supporter. Jenner’s appearance “celebrates lions’ beauty and may be a statement against trophy hunting, in which lion families are torn apart to fulfill human egotism,” said Ingrid Newkirk, president of the animal-rights organization. “These incredibly creative three-dimensional animal heads demonstrate that anything is possible if you put your mind to it”, she concluded.
And if PETA, the arguably appointed animal spokesperson, themselves don’t have a problem with it, the art then should be respected. Couture is the grandest, most outrageous expression of fashion in its art form, it should be treated with a sense of surrealism, just like Schiaparelli built its creations from, and in this case, Roseberry’s reimagining of Dante’s Inferno reserves him a spot in heaven more than hell. Or, maybe, just settle where everyone is safe when they can still perpetually learn a thing or two: Purgatory.