Published on Jan. 29, 2023, 7:41 a.m. by Sage Soto
In typical pop-cultural fashion, Paris Fashion Week always delivers on an unspoken promise to the public to deliver sights for all to soak up. Take for example, Viktor & Rolf’s avant-garde show, with models strutting down the runway with “upside-down” and sideways dresses. Extravagance was also seen in Mugler’s celebrity-saturated runway, with models and celebrities giving powerful walks after entering the stage on a high-tech rolling cart. Nevertheless, Schiaparelli took the fashion world by storm this past week by having models strut down the runway in controversial animal designs, incorporating realistic animals for the season.
A casual viewer of these shows (who, more likely than not, are watching from home) may dismiss these shows as publicity stunts and lacking any merit, but the discerning fashion critic sees these displays as artistic and even boundary-pushing for the fashion world as a whole.
However, the one name that arguably stole the entire week for their haute couture designs goes to Schiaparelli. For their Spring / Summer 2023 showcase, Schiaparelli’s creative director Daniel Roseberry decided to focus the show on high-end looks and the concept of Hell as written by Dante Alighieri. Models pumped down the runway in Schiaparelli’s signature color palette of black, white, cream, and gold in high-end ready-made looks.
The show took a dramatic turn when model Irina Shayk commanded the room’s attention with a black fitted gown adorned with a realistic lion’s head emblazoned on her shoulder. Other animal hybrid outfits that went down the runway included a snow leopard gown and a wolf coat, worn by Shalom Harlow and Naomi Campbell, respectively.
With phones out and a stunned crowd, it was inevitable that these intricate designs would make waves online and throughout the fashion community. Reception from the outside world was mixed; some lauded the impeccable arrangements and the company’s designers for their tireless efforts in creating garments that looked incredibly lifelike, to the point of intimidation from the animals. Others strongly opposed the clothing, claiming that the outfits glamorized and encouraged poaching and hunting of the animals.
Although the garments utilized faux fur and the animal heads were foam-molded, animal rights activists specifically opposed the clothing and denounced the brand for encouraging harmful behaviors. PETA, notoriously known for taking animal activism to extremes, applauded the brand and claimed that the garments celebrated the beauty of the animals. The group also stated how the designers were able to craft a hyper-realistic animal without harming any animals, further proving the brand’s statement of being against trophy hunting.
In an interview with The New York Times, Roseberry elaborated more on the inspiration behind the season’s line, stating that the animal designs were a commentary on society’s constant need for innovation and excitement. The three animals represent pride, avarice, and lust, as written in Dante’s Inferno. Roseberry also drew a connection between fame and hell, claiming that red carpets were the fire of fame and couture was fashion’s “gasoline”. With this line of thinking, Roseberry clearly made an effort to make an artistic statement with the animal designs as well as the whole season’s line as a whole. Whether one sees beauty or violence in these designs, the brand has undoubtedly made a strong impression on culture today with this season’s feral looks.
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