The Schiaparelli show that opened Paris Couture Week on Monday represented a remarkable collision of time lines.
The collection designed by Daniel Roseberry, the U.S. couturier who dresses everyone from Beyoncé to First Lady Jill Biden, was presented at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs on the same day that the museum was due to celebrate the opening of a retrospective dedicated to the house’s founder Elsa Schiaparelli.
In what must be a first in fashion history, several of the outfits shown on the runway are featured in the exhibit, titled “Shocking! The Surreal World of Elsa Schiaparelli.”
They include a black velvet coat with pockets shaped like drawers, a reference to the “Bureau Drawer” suit that Schiaparelli created with artist Salvador Dalí in 1936, and a velvet jacket with a trompe l’oeil neckline inspired by her collaboration with Jean Cocteau.
“When the exhibit was originally conceived, I think the danger is that it would have felt too scholarly in a way. I think that the legacy of Elsa, the connection with today and everything, has really been brought to life in an incredible way, so I’m really excited,” the designer said in a preview.
“It gives a whole other layer of depth to the way that people can appreciate the brand and where some of these ideas come from and why they make sense,” he added.
You might have expected Roseberry to mark the occasion by doubling down on the avant-garde, Surrealist designs that have propelled him to fame. Instead, he showed his most orthodox collection to date, steeped in the couture tropes that inspired him as a teen.
Chief among them: Christian Lacroix, who kicked off the Schiaparelli revival in 2013 with a one-off tribute collection. The two men recently spoke for a feature in Interview magazine, and the conversation set off a spark.
Tributes to Lacroix dotted the lineup, from the huge whorls of satin of a dove gray pouf skirt, to the Provençal-style straw boater hats, and a velvet choker dangling a heavy metal cross. Razor-sharp black velvet suits were spliced with corseted midriffs, or overlaid with wreaths of colorful artificial blooms.
“These are all pearlized, hand-molded leather,” said Roseberry, pointing to a black bustier dress sprouting a burst of tulips. “The petals of the tulips are shaped on spoons. It’s an unreal exercise.”
The flower images were taken from “A Passion for Flowers,” a tome by Carolyne Roehm that sat on his grandmother’s coffee table. By reaching back for those first impressions, Roseberry hopes to conjure a sense of “creative innocence” in his work.
For fashion lovers, it marked an extraordinary voyage, from the 1930s, when Schiaparelli designed the skeleton dress that inspired Saskia de Brauw’s cutaway corset top, via the 1980s, which saw Lacroix dynamite fashion with his Baroque aesthetic, to the present-day, with Roseberry redefining red-carpet dressing for a fearless generation.
The designer said he hoped his collections would go down in fashion history. For once, it’s possible to say without the benefit of hindsight that this one already has.