Thursday 16 July 2020

Daniel Roseberry: Schiaparelli and the Avant-Garde

One of Daniel Rosesberry's sketches done in New York's Washington Square Park during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Maison Schiaparelli's Daniel Roseberry is the first American to head an established Paris-based couture house. The young, bearded Texan took over as artistic director, after more than a decade at the exuberant hothouse of Thom Browne. For the first digital haute couture week, a video showed the designer sketching his Collection Imaginaire during lockdown in New York. We look at the origins of this famously avant-garde fashion house and it's flamboyant Italian aristocrat founder. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento

Artistic director of Schiaparelli, Daniel Roseberry,
drawing in Washington Square Park 
during lockdown.
MAISON SCHIAPARELLI traditionally opens Paris Haute Couture Week and this season when all the live shows were replaced by online presentations, the house showed a short film featuring creative director Daniel Roseberry sketching a new collection.

It was one of the very few engaging videos from this first digital Paris fashion schedule. Many of the films for both couture and Paris Men's Fashion Week were irrelevant and lacklustre, without a story to tell, and often unwatchable. A fashion designer, a film director does not make. This digital season demonstrated that live, theatrical runway shows are still the most effective way to bring new fashion and innovative designs to life

During the Covid-19 lockdown in Paris, Schiaparelli decided to close its Paris atelier to protect its staff. Meanwhile Daniel Roseberry was stuck in New York for three months, after what he thought would be a brief visit to the United States. He couldn't see his French colleagues in person or leave to work in the Paris atelier. He ended up sketching out his new Haute Couture collection on a bench in Washington Square Park, on a Monday morning before Paris Fashion Week opened. The “imaginary collection” was designed for a season that was impossible to produce but his sketches have inspired designs that will be made-to-order.

"On June 29th, 2020, I woke up early, got ready in my New York apartment on 12th street, put on my mask and headed outside to face another day of life in quarantine," the designer explains. "Three months ago I was marooned in New York while taking a quick trip back to the States. Since then I have been living in isolation while Maison Schiaparelli took a hiatus.

Daniel Roseberry was marooned in New York for three months after what he thought would be a brief visit to the United States. 

One of the designs created  for
Daniel Roseberry's AW2021
couture collection.
"Everyone has their own lockdown story, some harrowing, some tragic, some utterly lonely. The luckiest of us have been able to spend this time in nature, far removed from city life. My own experience was shared with millions of other Manhattanites: it was privileged, but nothing extraordinary. What was extraordinary, however, was the ability to walk into Washington Square Park on a Monday morning and sketch out a Haute Couture collection."

The designer believes our lives have changed with COVID-19 but he thinks that imagination, the drive to create, has been even more important. The new collection is a tribute to the creative impulse. "Imagination and dreams can be profound, but they are even more so when they guide us into action. Without putting our dreams into practice, these abstractions would be denied their ultimate power," he says.

Roseberry was inspired by the original founder of the Paris-based fashion house, the Italian aristocrat Elsa Schiaparelli, who was born at the Corsini palace in Rome. Her father was the director of the Lincei library and a professor of Oriental literature and she grew up in a family of aristocrats and intellectuals.

From the beginning of her career in London and New York, she delighted in experimentation, the avant-garde and the Surrealist artists who influenced her designs for her atelier, later established in Paris. "The new AW2021 collection has many tributes to her work and her obsessions,"  says Roseberry, "but done in my way, on new terms."

Schiaparelli brought art to fashion and fashion to art when she founded her Paris fashion house in 1927. The fusion of fine art and fashion brought famous clients, including Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall, Gala Dali, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Marlene Dietrich and the Duchess of Windsor. Schiaparelli was a contemporary and rival of Coco Chanel and was one of the most inventive designers in the history of fashion.

From the beginning of her career, Elsa Schiaparelli delighted in experimentation, the avant-garde and Surrealist artists 

Avant-garde fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli
in her Paris atelier. By 1932, the couture house,
was called “Schiaparelli: Pour le Sport, Pour la Ville, 
Pour le Soir”. 

She introduced runway shows, made the first jumpsuits, culottes and women's shorts and was so innovative that she was the first female fashion designer to be featured on the cover of Time, the American weekly magazine, in 1934.

The following year the couture house moved to bigger premises and took over the Hotel de Fontpertuis at 21 Place Vendôme. This demonstrates how Schiaparelli's success had grown. The building had five floors, 98 rooms, and more than 700 employees with a boutique overlooking the Vendôme column.

During the 1930s, Schiaparelli worked with Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau. She and Dali collaborated on many Surrealist fashion designs and Jean Cocteau's drawings featured on clothing and jewellery. There were many artistic creations that were in the anarchic Dada spirit with a men’s fragrance bottle in the shape of a pipe (inspired by Magritte), gloves with red python nails and a Lucite necklace encrusted with insects.

During the 1930s, Schiaparelli worked with Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau on fashion designs, perfume and jewellery

Daniel Roseberry is inspired by
Elsa Schiaparelli's Surrealism
with this shoe-shaped 
hair style. 
Elsa Shiaparelli's friendships with Dali and Cocteau led to some of her most iconic pieces, that are part of the fashion canon today, including: the lobster dress with Dali's painting on the skirt, the famous shoe hat (a version appears in Roseberry's drawings, at left) the skeleton dress with it's prominent ribs and backbone, knitted sweaters with trompe-l’oeil bows and neckties that were a runaway success in America, as well as the original "power" suit with with wide shoulders and embroidered lip-shaped pockets.

By 1954, following the austerities of World War II, Elsa Schiaparelli closed both the haute couture and pret-a-porter labels. It wasn't until Italian businessman, Diego Della Valle, chairman of luxury goods group Tod’s, acquired Schiaparelli in 2006 that the house was reborn. Della Valle even waited another six years for the lease at the designer’s original atelier in central Paris to be free again.

By 2012, the couture house had reopened at the Hôtel de Fontpertuis, Place Vendôme, at the very place where Elsa left it. Two years later, the first Haute Couture runway show since 1954 was presented during Paris Haute Couture week. By 2017, Schiaparelli was awarded the official Haute Couture label by the French Ministry of Industry and the French Couture Federation.

Daniel Roseberry says he is inspired by the history of the Schiaparelli fashion house, founded on inventiveness and ideas rather than just making beautiful clothes. When he took the reins of Schiaparelli last year, he said it was an "honor and joy to pick up where Madame Schiaparelli left off some 85 years ago.” He loves the idea of exploring the nature of fashion today, as Elsa Schiaparelli had done in her own era, and believes the Surrealist sensibility is particularly suited to the strange times we are living though now.

"Life today is lived according to opposites; the pandemic has inverted everything we knew," Daniel Roseberry says. "Now, instead of a team to execute this collection, I just have my own imagination. Instead of the Place Vendome in Paris, it’s been designed and sketched on a park bench." Now the designer has been able to venture back to Paris and these designs will be handed to the Atelier.

The House of Schiaparelli was founded on inventiveness and was always about ideas rather than just making beautiful clothes

A dress is draped from a long necklace
that falls in elegant folds that have 
the signature Schiaparelli
innovation & whimsy.
Daniel Roseberry was born in Texas and began his fashion career when he moved to New York to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Before he had even finished his degree, he had already starting working at Thom Browne, a New York City-based brand. For the last five years he was the design director of men’s and women’s collections. He was named artistic director of Schiaparelli following the departure of Bertrand Guyon in April 2019. 

When he began as artistic director of the house, a film crew followed Roseberry for 10 months after his move from the United States to Paris, for a documentary called Schiaparelli: The Next Chapter. He was filmed  making his second couture collection for the house and it gives a fascinating insight into the ateliers, the creation of a haute couture collection and the couturier's method.

Elsa Schiaparelli's iconoclasm has inspired Roseberry to design collections that both recall the artistic roots of the house and bring a contemporary, sporty aesthetic to the clothes while still maintaining a dreamy,  otherworldly quality.

For the September ready-to-wear shows, the house plans to have a small presentation at its historic salons in the Place Vendôme to show the Spring 2021 collection. By next January, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode is planning the return of Paris Couture Week to live runway shows. Daniel Roseberry may then be able to create his next collection back in Elsa Schiaparelli's Parisian atelier, instead of on a New York park bench.

Watch the video of Daniel Roseberry creating his collection in Washington Square Park 

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