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Controversy at Paris Couture Week

Elissa Knowles discusses the potential controversy at Paris Couture Week as Schiaparelli’s animal heads stir conversations about the glorification of trophy hunting.

Image credit: Alexas_Fotos

The House of Schiaparelli is renowned for its use of Surrealism; Italian-born Elsa Schiaparelli famously introduced witty accessories such as a purse in the shape of a telephone to encompass her unconventional take on fashion in the 1930s. To this day, Maison Schiaparelli’s extravagant choices of unnatural and unorthodox fashion designs are what maintains its luxury and contemporary feel.

Image Credit: 95C & CDD20

Recently, however, Schiaparelli has come under criticism as a result of Daniel Roseberry’s bold use of taxidermy-like animal-heads in their showcase at Paris Couture Week, late January. The first to grab attention was front row seated Kylie Jenner, wearing an ultra-realistic lion head atop a black ball gown, while Irina Shayk wore something similar (resembling pride), Shalom Harlow styled a faux leopard head (lust) and Naomi Campbell sported a wolf head (avarice). Undoubtedly, Roseberry achieved an absurdist coup de theatre, as intended.

Bold statements, however, do not go unnoticed, as Maison Schiaparelli likely anticipated, and a wave of controversy and criticism quickly arose. Concerns of trophy-hunting glorification brought Roseberry under fire, despite captioning their Instagram post with “NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS LOOK”, making it clear that the taxidermy-like heads were made of completely faux material. Schiaparelli stand by the statement that they’re ‘celebrating the glory of the natural world’. Backlash soon ensued on their Instagram platform, one individual writing ‘you don’t celebrate the glory of the natural world by wearing it like a tacky trophy’ while other esteemed fashion designers also expressed their outrage, labelling the designs ‘sickening’ and ‘repulsive’.

Many would argue that, irrespective of the House’s intentions, the designs simply glamourise trophy-hunting on a problematic level. Meanwhile, notwithstanding this visceral public reaction, PETA issued a comment in support of Roseberry’s designs, suggesting that he sparked a necessary conversation surrounding trophy-hunting, and that the faux designs are the perfect solution to this arguably inhumane sport: if such realistic representations are possible, then there is no longer the need to kill for aesthetic alone. PETA does however urge leading fashion designers to ensure all their materials and processes are 100% cruelty-free.

Controversy is still rife surrounding this showcase of designs, and caution should be taken when dealing with such a sensitive subject. Considering extinction is a very real and current issue in the 21st century, these artistic tastes may be conceivably premature. Born Free notes that in the last 2 decades lion populations have decreased by a shocking 43%, rendering them critically endangered with only 23,000 left in the wild.

Image credit: Pezibear

Other luxury designers have been considered to ‘celebrate the natural world’ criticism-free, such as Versace’s ‘iconic’ jungle print dress from 2000, or Stella McCartney’s sustainable spring collection from 2020, without raising several ethical concerns. How do you feel about Schiaparelli’s contentious start to 2023?

About the Author: Elissa Knowles is a third-year Psychology Student at the University of York, loves taking care of her many (many) plants and hopes to go into environmental journalism.

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