Couture is an art so elegant, yet so personal. Undoubtedly the form of fashion most homogenous with the art world, couture blends sculptural disciplines with the fluidity of 2D designs on a canvas. Designers pour their musings, stories, and dreams into extravagant pieces that rule runways all over the world. An artist quite familiar with this process is Daniel Roseberry, the talented artistic director of iconic Maison Schiaparelli.
Previously at the helm of Thom Browne for both men’s and women’s collections, Roseberry is known as the visionary behind Schiaparelli’s most headlining looks over the nearly two years since his arrival. Despite over a decade of experience in fashion, Roseberry had never worked in a couture atelier prior to joining Maison Schiaparelli. Therefore, we are all the more impressed to see his museum-worthy pieces of late.
To honor the Chinese lunisolar calendar, we have created our very own CR Couture Calendar 2021 to showcase one house each month. For March, CR is highlighting Roseberry’s work. Below, CR chats with the seasoned designer on his style, inspirations, and past looks throughout an energizing conversation on all things couture.
CR: Aside from the aesthetic power of Haute Couture, what is your take on the messages that can be conveyed through such an impactful form of art? How do you communicate important meaning through your work at Schiaparelli?
DR: “I try to keep things as personal as possible. The more personal to me, the more connected to a fascination I had as a child, to something that inspired me growing up, or to something I’ve always wanted to share about my own imagination…those are the things that I feel resonate with people the deepest, the things that hold a deeper meaning. The smaller, more personal, more specific ideas are, the bigger, the more expansive, the more universal their power, I think.”
CR: As the creation of Haute Couture is a costly and laborious process, has it lost priority during the pandemic? Or is couture thriving due to the inflood of creative thinking during lockdowns?
DR: “Couture is thriving. Not just creatively, but also from a business perspective. I think clients are so fatigued by the democracy of luxury…they are looking for something truly exclusive, something truly their own. I think people want to dream more than ever, and I think for couture clients, those dreams need to be theirs and theirs alone. Couture can offer this privilege. Fatigue from overexposure…but starvation for something special and new. I think we all live in this tension between fatigue and starvation.”
CR: Recently, your work with Lady Gaga’s Inauguration look and Kim Kardashian’s Christmas gown have made headlines. Could you speak on your inspiration for each of these couture pieces?
DR: “For Kim, she wanted a ‘festive’ color. Gold felt too obvious, so we went with something weird, this chartreuse green. I loved how it made references to the Hulk, the Grinch, and for me to a sort of homage to a deco-era absinthe color. The abs of her bodice were a preview of what came later in the couture, a reimagining of what we all expect couture to look like…and what it asks its woman to look like. Kim has definitely been a contributor to how we all see bodies as beautiful today. I felt like it was perfect for her.”
“Lady Gaga was really about messaging unity, about using fashion to appeal to people’s better angels. I know her decision to perform the national anthem in that particular moment in history carried a huge significance for her, and she wanted a look that would meet that moment, a look that would reflect her intentions. That’s how uniting the colors of the two political parties into one look was decided, and then the gold dove of peace became a sort of intuitive gesture that brought the two pieces together, and ultimately became something for people to focus on and communicate about.”
CR: Schiaparelli is the most quintessential surrealist fashion house in the industry, specifically because of Elsa’s legacy for her introduction of the art form to fashion as a whole. How are you inspired by the house’s vibrant past, and how do you implement surrealism within your own designs?
DR: “I am working in an industry that looks different today because of the work Elsa did almost 100 years ago. That sort of legacy can loom large at a house as storied as this, so I try to keep all of my references to her work very light-handed, nothing too literal. I fully believe if Elsa were alive today she would not be interested in us recreating her designs… I think she would want me to be pushing the house to the forefront of the conversation, to be finding my own way. I find that her legacy, instead of constricting me, ultimately just sets me free–free to explore any and all ideas relating to nature, to the body, to barbaric embroideries and the redefinition of couture, and ultimately to have a cultural conversation about fashion at large.”
CR: In looking back on your work both personally and with Schiaparelli, is there one specific couture project that stands out as your favorite?
DR: “Oh that’s hard. The first time Beyoncé wore Schiaparelli was so special, because she was the first one to really wear us. The sapphire blue couture gown on Regina King was also so stunning. I really like Kim as a person, and I loved that absinthe green six-pack look. And Gaga really brought us to a historical level with her inauguration look. That will go into a museum one day…and I know that look meant a lot to people. I guess I love them all for different reasons.”
CR: Recently, you collaborated with CR for our couture calendar. Could you delve into the inspiration behind the Schiaparelli look?
DR: “This was really one part couture, one part American sportswear. The top I love because it’s cut as a bias swimsuit with almost no seaming, and then the draped white skirt reminds me of something from Schiap’s world in the ’30s. I love this sort of sporty, hyper-modernized couture glamour.”
CR: Which designers, past or present, influence you the greatest for your work in couture? Or perhaps a specific era, trend, or period of fashion that inspires you the most?
DR: “I like French and Italian furniture design from the ’30s, mixed with the second golden age of couture…Late Yves, LaCroix, Alaïa, Mugler. I love the modern, interior design world colliding with this baroque, emotive, fashion with a capital F sensibility. I love pre-9/11 fashion, movies, everything. When things felt more innocent, the world felt a bit smaller. I don’t think I’m that nostalgic, but in this case I think I might be.”
CR: How would you describe your creative process? Do you have a “formula” of sorts, or does your design technique vary according to the project?
DR: “It’s always changing depending on what it is, but the basic structure is the same: research, hand sketching, digital collage, physical fitting. Those are my four steps with pretty much anything. Everything starts with a sketch, and then it all changes completely the moment we get into 3D fittings.”
CR: Surrealism and avant-garde couture inevitably go hand-in-hand. Are there any surrealist motifs that embody Schiaparelli couture? How can avant-garde and surrealism be separated, or are they one and the same?
DR: “When I think of the avant-garde, I think of experimentation. When I think of surrealism, I think about asking questions about ourselves, our bodies, exploring the unconscious mind. I think that avant-garde can absolutely exist without surrealism, but I don’t think good surrealist work can exist without being considered avant-garde.“
CR: You worked at Thom Browne for 11 years before joining Schiaparelli. How has your work at Thom Browne intersected with your current ventures? Are there any similarities design-wise between the two?
DR: “I think there are similarities in that Thom combines luxury and conceptualism. I learned everything I know about tailoring, about manufacturing, and about showmanship from Thom Browne. But maybe the greatest gift Thom gave me was the experience of watching him handle the pressures of being a creative director, of knowing how vulnerable it can be to put creative work out into the world, for which you will be judged ruthlessly. I will always be so immensely grateful for my time with Thom.”
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