In a social media world, reviving a storied fashion brand is all about storytelling. And so it was that for his debut at Schiaparelli, Daniel Roseberry gave guests a literal peek into the genesis of the collection, reenacting the month he spent in a freezing studio in Manhattan’s Chinatown sketching ideas for the couture house.
As the sound of the M train screeched through the loudspeakers, Roseberry ambled up to a table in the middle of the runway, took off his jacket, put on some earphones and started to draw. When the first model appeared, it was as if his thoughts were materializing in real time.
Or something like that. As photogenic as the premise may sound, the mise-en-scène felt a little contrived, especially in a city that coined the concept of designer-as-tortured-genius. At least he wasn’t pretending to draw: Roseberry comes from a family of artists and is a brilliant sketcher.
In person, he’s also the opposite of pretentious: earnest, engaging — and clearly thrilled to be in the hot seat, after 10 years behind the scenes at Thom Browne in New York. Roseberry has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve in Paris, and it involves avoiding the “booby trap” of referencing founder Elsa Schiaparelli’s creations.
“Shocking pink — it’s not shocking anymore, so we’re moving on. All of those classic tropes: I want to honor the essence of her process, not the things that she did. And I don’t think she would have wanted that either because we live in a different time, so the whole exercise for me was about the purity of now,” he explained in a preview.
He divided his lineup into three sections: day, night and dream time, although in practice, nothing was quite as clear-cut. Trompe-l’oeil details crept onto his tailored day looks, like the gold ribbon curling across a cinch-waisted navy coat, which was matched with stocking-like stirrup pants in overdyed lace.
Black feathers fluttered like moths around a tank dress in yellow ostrich leather, and a massive python necklace wrapped around the neckline of a sheer black top — nods to Schiaparelli’s fascination with nature.
Making the case for artifice, crystal fringe was used as an accent, dripping from the red acrylic nails embroidered on a mannish black blazer, and outlining the cage structure of the “invisible’” dress worn underneath — clever takes on surrealism for the Cardi B generation.
The color palette morphed from neutral to neon, as though on a mirror journey to Roseberry’s daily commute to his Chinatown retreat. Patrician shades of burgundy, camel, caramel and dusty green gave way to a rainbow parade of garish hues.
It started with an iridescent black column dress topped with a trailing absinthe-colored satin veil — think Spanish infanta on acid. A knit nylon tank dress in a dégradé of colors could have stepped straight out of a Pride march.
“It’s an exercise in color. I want to be a part of the kind of fashion that I used to be obsessed with as a kid,” Roseberry explained. “There’s an innocence or a childlike wonder that I want to capture. It’s a very heart-on-your-sleeve kind of thing.” Indeed, his final looks had all the exuberance of a ballroom scene in “Pose.”
“This is where, to me, it should feel like this total emotional release that people feel,” he remarked. “I never want it to be one thing. I feel like there’s a real spectrum, but this is also in so many ways like a second coming out, where it’s very personal for me to be able to be this expressive and have this opportunity.”
You could almost taste his joy at having the full run of the color spectrum, after a decade in Browne’s gray-on-gray world. Having said that, Roseberry could do with a slightly tighter focus. In today’s crowded landscape, a clear message rings out the loudest.