Schiaparelli’s animal dresses went too far

“NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN MAKING THIS LOOK,” Schiaparelli wrote under an Instagram post of its tone-deaf faux-taxidermy wolf, snow leopard and lion head dresses showcased at the fashion house’s spring/summer 2023 haute couture show in Paris this week.

The fact this had to be clarified should have been a huge red flag for the label — or at least shows the comms team preempted the backlash it has faced for glorifying game hunting.

We’ve long been trying to stamp out the vile practice — who could forget the horrific 2015 viral photo of recreational big-game trophy hunter Walter Palmer crouched over poor Cecil the lion who he had gruesomely killed? Well, apparently Schiaparelli could — sending model Irina Shayk down the runway yesterday wearing what looked like a dead lion’s head.

Irina Shayk

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While PETA shockingly defended the dresses as “fabulously innovative” — saying the collection celebrated “the beauty of wild animals and may be a statement against trophy hunting, in which lions and wolves are torn apart to satisfy human egotism,” — Carrie Johnson spoke out on the “grim” designs, arguing that “Real or fake this just promotes trophy hunting.” Photographer Misan Harriman has also spoken out against the careless couture dresses, posting to his Instagram stories: “Dear fashion industry, this is NOT the way to start the year. Nope NOPE NOPE!.”

A model wears a faux snow leopard as part of the Schiaparelli SS23 collection

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In the show notes Daniel Roseberry explains his reasoning for the designs. “Inferno’s animalistic symbolism: “the leopard, the lion, and the she-wolf — representing lust, pride, and avarice.” Made from hand-sculpted foam, resin, wool, and silk faux fur, he explained they were made to highlight “the glory of nature”. What — by wearing it like a tacky trophy?

Naomi Campbell

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Couture has traditionally been an outlet for designers to take risks with avant-garde artisanship — not the safety of endangered animals. Yes, the craftsmanship that went into these uncannily realistic heads is impressive, but for what purpose? To make animal heads — fake or real — fashionable again, after many years of campaigning to stop animal cruelty? It was only last year that luxury fashion conglomerate Kering, which owns Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen and Saint Laurent took the decision to stop using animal fur across its brands as of the autumn/winter 2022 collections. While fashion designer Stella McCartney has long been lobbying for a global end to fur cruelty via her ‘Our time has come’ campaign.

It’s more likely that Roseberry made these design choices to do exactly what it has done — generate attention on the Internet. As proven by seating reality TV star Kylie Jenner, who is the third most followed person on Instagram, on the FROW in the creepily lifelike lion head evening gown.

Whether we like it or not, the fashion gimmick is now a serious part of many brands’ social media strategies — just look at Coperni spray painting a dress onto a naked Bella Hadid at the last Paris Fashion Week, or Paris Hilton closing the Versace show. But, this time, Schiaparelli has taken it too far.

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