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Schiaparelli’s Latest Controversial Collection Looks Back to Surrealist Art

Taking cues from its Surrealist roots, the French fashion house Schiaparelli opened its couture show in Paris this week with a contemporary take on Dante’s Inferno.
The house’s creative Daniel Roseberry revealed in pre-show notes that for the Spring 2023 collection that he was specifically interested in the 14th-century Italian author’s renderings of Hell. Throughout the show, Roseberry brought to life versions of the epic poem’s three allegorical animals: the lion, the leopard and the she-wolf.
Present as spectators and models were some of the internet’s favorite muses, from Kylie Jenner to Naomi Campbell, wearing taxidermied outfits with hyper-realistic faux animal heads affixed to fitted gowns and overcoats. The singer Doja Cat was also there, appearing bald and covered in red gemstones at the steps of the Petit Palais like a demonic red figure.
In other pieces, gold-painted torsos and metallic sculptural heads paid tribute to the house’s founder, Elsa Schiaparelli, and her ties to Surrealist artists like Man Ray, Salvador Dali, and Meret Oppenheim during the 1930s. She was the subject of a recent retrospective at the the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris last year, and her collaborations with those artists demonstrated a propensity to shock audiences with strange garments that at times merged bodies with animal features.
Alongside these references to Surrealism were homages to much older images of dead animals. The clothes’ fake animal heads perturbed many onlookers, who decried the show as glorifying hunting. But even PETA pointed out that that was not the intention here, and museums are filled with images of slain animals as status trophies, a common theme for Dutch painters that still draw modern audiences.
“The faux life-size taxidermy broaches, outsized to the wearer like the shoulders on many silhouettes, were in Schiaparelli ’s demeanor to shock,” said Matthew Yokobosky, the Brooklyn Museum’s senior curator of fashion and material culture.
“In an age when many companies are eschewing the use of real fur in deference to synthetic furs,” he continued, “to see realistic life-size animal heads on a couture runway was shocking, but in keeping with the brand’s modus operandi.”
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