The internet – known for its ability to alter the course of a fashion house’s life indefinitely – is rife once more with proverbial pitchforks. This time, the social media stampede has Haute Couture Week set in its sights.
As the ex spearhead of Thom Browne, Maison Schiaparelli’s enigmatically American Creative Director Daniel Roseberry is no stranger to witnessing the fallout of cancel culture around him. We only need to look towards brands that have experienced stints in fashion exile before.
However, with the debut of Roseberry’s taxidermy lion heads pinned across both Irina Shayk and Kylie Jenner like badges of honour during their Paris Couture Week show, has the historic house gone too far? We should point out that it has since been swiftly clarified that the heads weren’t real, but actually scarily lifelike sculptures, painstakingly hand-crafted using “foam, wool and silk faux fur”. Okay, fine – that arguably makes it at least 80% less scandalous than using an actual endangered animal corpse. The other 20% may be a little murky, though.
We could spend hours fuelling debate around the fur and faux fur in fashion conversation – it’s been happening for years, after all. Peta protesters have been throwing red paint at fox coats for decades at the steps of fashion shows. But at the crux, the issue lies not with the faux lion head itself, but the message that it portrays. Wearing the head of an animal as a fashion statement (foam-based or not) has raised some serious ethical questions over the past few days. Is it wrong? Does it glorify trophy hunting?
Even when furs and skins are fake, there may be a line that can’t – or shouldn’t – be crossed with symbolic messaging in fashion. Whilst some – animal rights activists in particular – suggested that the hyper-realistic designs promoted the wrong message, a few argue that demonising faux is a no go if we hope to eradicate real fur on the runway (and in the world) forever.
No one doubts the unmatched, hand-sculpted ability that Schiaparelli’s ‘Dante’s Inferno’ inspired collection exhibited. Even the show’s intention was perhaps harmless, with Roseberry describing the pieces – a wolf, worn by Naomi Campbell; a snow leopard, modelled by Shalom Harlow, and the now infamous lion pinned to Irina Shayk – as a celebration of “the glory of the natural world” Despite this, the heads still unnerved social media users, with sustainable fashion TikTok commentator @nihaelety suggesting that there could have been “a better way” to showcase animals, “without perpetuating dangerous poaching activities.”
Whilst animal rights charity Peta have surprisingly come forward to give the collection the green light, many still swiftly clicked the unfollow button after the event. For now though, it seems that Haute Couture – and Schiaparelli – will survive another day in the age old “has fashion gone too far?” debate.
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