HEROINE 17 COVER STORY
The designer Daniel Roseberry is talking about what he’s been drawing lately in his Parisian HQ on a sunny Monday morning. “I’ve been drawing my dream house. I haven’t said that to anybody,” he confides. “I imagine it to be in the countryside somewhere.” Let’s be clear: Roseberry is not talking about fashion houses in the literal sense – since 2019, he has arguably been living that dream by thinking up ever more fantastic ways to rigorously re-invent the house of Schiaparelli, a legendary Parisian couture salon that he has brought back hard into the fashion conversation by fusing his own rich imagination with that of its colourful founder.
Elsa [Schiaparelli] herself once dressed up as a radish for a costume party, wrote Roseberry in a brilliant aside for his FW22 ready-to-wear show notes, in which he also draws one’s attention to myriad memorable moments featured in this bold, 37-look offering. These include – in no particular order – the fact they’ve re-created row-by-row Elsa’s first lambswool jacquard trompe l’oeil sweaters from 1927, that the Salvador Dalí-era 3D bones motif had been whipped into an intarsia bateau pencil dress, a satin mini is festooned with hammered gold piercings and denim boasts Roseberry’s own renderings of the dove, the padlock and human anatomy, which are embroidered in matte cotton. The tribute to Edward Scissorhands of look four, crafted naturally in Schiaparelli gold, reflects something more pertinent to Roseberry himself. “I feel, often, like a contemporary version of Edward Scissorhands, a combination of the achingly tender and the razor sharp,” he wrote, nodding in part to the pandemic’s socially distanced fog that hung in the air around the time of this collection’s birth.
Its colour palette was to echo that of the critically acclaimed SS22 haute couture collection – his sixth couture outing for the house – and featured clothing crafted in only black, white and Schiaparelli gold. That particular couture collection was inspired by the idea of the goddess and the alien – movies such as Interstellar, Dune, Arrival and Prometheus were on his mind – with Roseberry wishing to make clothes that “defied rules of gravity.” This hugely impressive series of haute outfits pivoted around impeccable tailoring with oversized ‘dove’ collars, embroidered vintage Schiaparelli palm trees spurting upright from the shoulders of a jacket alongside cone bras, bustiers, plumage, circular hats with planetary notions, lashings of brilliant gold and even a vintage reimagining of a Schiaparelli motif – the Apollo Fountain of Versailles. It was dazzlingly stark.
all clothing and accessories by SCHIAPARELLI FW22 READY-TO-WEAR; earrings worn throughout, BENTE’S own
Roseberry says his approach to Schiaparelli is based around a “conceptual and emotional instinct.” Collectively, the 69 looks of these two collections showcase this vision with snappy bite, energetic fizz and a directness that celebrates the sheer fabulousness of high fashion without drowning in Elsa-isms. He is firm that his time spent in the archive is limited, making the way he weaves her work into this new iteration of the house impressive – not a radish in sight – while illustrating a contemporary lightness of hand.
It is perhaps a combination of all of the above that has encouraged a slew of A-list clientele to wear his clothes from First Lady Jill Biden to Doja Cat via Regina King and Adele, Jeremy O. Harris, and of course Lady Gaga at Biden’s inauguration, where the singer wore a crimson-skirted gown with black top section showcasing a golden dove holding an olive branch. This latter image is one that Roseberry knows will define his design credentials for the foreseeable, and one he talks about later as being “profound.”
Roseberry was born in Texas – in Plano to be precise – to a father who worked as a priest and a mother who was an artist. It provided Roseberry with an interesting tension that has attributed to both his pragmatic work ethic and love of drawing. As a child he adored Disney and as an adult he spent a decade training under Thom Browne. On Roseberry’s rise to stardom and creative acumen, Browne tells me, “As designers, it is our job to, of course, design and make clothing. But it is also our job to tell our authentic and individual stories. Daniel saw me tell my story, but that wasn’t his story. Now, he is designing and making beautiful clothing, and telling his unique and individual story. And for this, I am happy and proud of him.”
Roseberry’s first show for Schiaparelli – haute couture for Fall 2019 – saw the designer sketch live on stage, setting the scene for his forthcoming tenure with objects that nodded to both Elsa’s legacy – including a cage echoing her Shocking perfume bottle – alongside hundreds of vintage My Little Pony’s, a hint of his own past. He played with insects and florals, bouncy volume, sassy colour. There was a sizzling rhinestone snake neck piece and surrealist ‘brain’ hat made in collaboration with milliner Stephen Jones, but crucially it did not feel like a museum exhibit.
“Daniel is the conductor, and we are the orchestra,” explained Jones. “He gives me room to express myself, but I give him the room to express himself, and that is a true collaboration. I think what Daniel has brought to the house of Schiaparelli is excitement, modernity and [because of this] he has put it on the front page.
all clothing and accessories by SCHIAPARELLI FW22 READY-TO-WEAR; earrings worn throughout, BENTE’S own
The author Hanya Yanagihara – of A Little Life fame who recently published To Paradise which featured a dedication to Roseberry – says that during the pandemic, every day they would take a walk together at lunch through the West Village in New York. “Anyone who knows Daniel knows that along with being smart and visionary, he’s also wise, which is the best and rarest quality of all – wise, and gifted at friendship. He brings the same singularity – the same focus, the same dedication – to his friendships that he brings to his work,” she says. “He’s also generous – generous with his gifts, his time, but most of all, his vulnerability. I consider myself deeply fortunate to get to be witness to his work and process at all stages, from conception to execution. I know few other artists who would allow people such access: it takes a real confidence and self-assurance to allow yourself to be that exposed.”
Elsa’s own foray into fashion began in 1927 and was also rich in exciting cultural exchange, partnerships and collaborations. Her five-storied Place Vendôme couture house was conceived by interior designer Jean-Michel Frank in collaboration with sculptor Alberto Giacometti, underlining a career blurring the lines of fashion and art. Elsa’s first collaboration with Salvador Dalí was on a make-up powder compact case inspired by a rotary phone dial that appeared in 1935. But Elsa was just as well-known for her curveball approach: she made buttons from peanuts, wrenches, hammers, birds and insects. She even made a collection called ‘Cash and Carry’ during World War II featuring ‘siren suits’ that featured integrated bags to pre-empt air raids. She also made – in collaboration with writer Elsa Triolet – the iconic Aspirin necklace featuring porcelain beads as a witty homage to those medical pills.
There is also a knowing sense of wit in Roseberry’s Schiaparelli. So too, a great celebration of jewellery – often as a kind of contemporary body décor. “Once Covid had struck, and we knew we were going to be presenting digitally, instinctively I knew jewellery was our key to connecting with a digital audience,” Roseberry said. “We flipped the script, and we devoted an entire group of the six-pack collection [spring 2021 couture] to this idea of body bijoux. We built the look around the jewellery, so the concept of the lungs informed the rest of the dress and the jewellery ceased to be an accessory, it was almost like the garment became an accessory which I think felt really new and signature.” He pauses, smiles. “The bijoux becomes the chandelier in the room, it’s the lighting, it makes the whole experience, it’s so important.”
“when you’re making couture you are designing and making clothes for people typically in the most joyous moments of their life.”
all clothing and accessories by SCHIAPARELLI FW22 READY-TO-WEAR; earrings worn throughout, BENTE’S own
A new exhibition about Elsa – Shocking! The surreal world of Elsa Schiaparelli – at Musée des Arts Décoratifs opened in July in Paris, further putting the house high on fashion’s agenda. It includes 520 works, including 272 silhouettes and accessories created by its founder – including the Lobster dress – and features a reconstruction of the 21Place Vendôme couture salon. Roseberry is also included. Curator Olivier Gabet says that Roseberry’s presence offers a great opportunity to translate between past and present. “ElsaSchiaparelli and Daniel Roseberry are two totally different personalities, with different cultural and visual backgrounds, but a shared vision of freedom and daring, a mix of rigour and exuberance, an alliance of contraries: black and gold. And still beauty is in the contrast, always,” he says.
I ask Gabet why he thinks the house of Schiaparelli is having such a moment and what is it that Daniel has brought to this. He says that it is not easy to revive such a historic house as this, but that the era of the 1930s does indeed resonate in some way with now, whilst Elsa was so ahead of her time with her collaborations, invention, humour. “Daniel has felt deeply all this, and makes it relevant for today, without nostalgia either,” Gabet says. “Daniel worked with Thom Browne before, which was a perfect introduction to the spirit of Surrealism, I think. And Schiaparelli is the best playground to experience, to dare, to achieve this sense of freedom in couture.”
“I always say that Daniel is making work that looks like no one else’s right now,” says Yanagihara, a sentiment that could easily apply to Elsa during her own lifetime. “You have the sense, watching him (and later, looking at the pieces) that he carries the entire universe of what he creates around in his head. That makes the process sound easy, which I know it isn’t. But the work feels intuitive – and there’s no confusing it with anyone else’s.”
Simon Chilvers: Hi Daniel! Having read that you were a Disney World fan and had originally wanted to be an animator when you were younger, I was stuck by the parallels between fairy tales and couture. Do you see a connection there?
Daniel Roseberry: Between my passion for Disney and the fairy tale ending?
SC: Well, just the idea that couture has a fairy tale quality about it in some regard.
DR: I definitely think that’s a valid association. Beauty and the Beast, for example, it’s the ultimate story about love redeeming a broken situation and it’s a very Christian concept, which resonated with my upbringing. I think when you’re making couture you are designing and making clothes for people typically in the most joyous moments of their life. It is often met with a lot of hope and promise as opposed to the mundane or the everyday and I think that is a really interesting parallel.
SC: I want to talk to you about your childhood and the church, but before that I was wondering if there was perhaps an early memory you have of clothing that explains your eventual career path. Was there a moment when a piece of clothing had more meaning to you than just putting it on?
DR: To be honest, the way I have personally experienced clothing, especially at a young age, was something that was probably a little awkward. I was wearing a uniform from the second grade, so I didn’t really have a choice in what to wear or how to express myself. It was only when I went to college and before I started at Thom Browne, I had a little window. I remember I went to Maine, and I would’ve been twenty-two, I had this realisation that the clothes I had worn on that trip were my favourite clothes. I started to think of them as travel companions. I think that’s why I always lean towards the comfortable and hardworking because I don’t like wearing precious things. I don’t even like dry cleaning or ironing, most of what I wear is cotton and looks as good wrinkled, but that’s a personal preference. As far as a kid myself, clothes were not an outlet for my own self at all.
SC: In terms of family dynamics, having your dad work in the church and your mum as an artist coupled with the Texan backdrop, how do you think that influenced you as a creative being?
DR: My dad once said in a sermon, I’m very much the 50/50 perfect mix of my dad and mum. My dad said, “I make things happen, Fran [Daniel’s mother] makes them beautiful.” I always felt between the two of them I absorbed a lot of that: my dad was such a leader in the church and my mum was such a nurturer at home, so I’m a really lucky product of two very gifted people.
SC: That’s a romantic thing to say about one’s partner – that they are the one to beautify something.
DR: I remember the sermon; I was probably ten. He used the illustration of being in a canoe because the person in the back is providing the power, the person who is sitting in the front is the one with the view and they provide the direction. Just a little tweak in one way or the other gives you a direction, I think that’s how it goes, but it is quite a romantic illustration.
SC: It’s really romantic. I read that Elsa [Schiaparelli] went to Texas on an American tour and apparently loved it, that’s quite funny.
DR: Yes, Stephen Jones [milliner for Schiaparelli] sent me a photo of her in a cowboy hat a few years ago and I’ve never forgotten it [laughs].
SC: What did you learn most working for Thom Browne?
DR: I think watching Thom deal with the requirements and the rigours of the job, the interviews, the pageantry of it all. He dealt with it with a lot of grace and wore things very lightly. As a designer, so much of how you feel about your place can be very heavily influenced by who trained you, and if you look at the people working today, monstrous behaviour sort of begets monstrous behaviour. I feel really lucky to have been trained by someone who never bought into that part of fashion. Thom was not up and down; he was very consistent, and I am probably more emotional or up and down than he is, but my worth as a person is not linked to this job, and I do think Thom really enforced that.
SC: I love that.
DR: I started with Thom Browne when they were around ten employees or something and really saw the arc of the company grow, all of the growing pains, the agonies, the ecstasies, the triumphs I think the rhythm we got into, where your team are really synced, is the only way to deal with the constant output the job requires. Thom was so genius at instilling the codes from the beginning, and I learned a lot about the power of codes and the fact you can actually make them work for you, not the other way around. I think that is super important.
“It’s so important it feels 100 per cent me and Schiaparelli simultaneously.”
SC: I want to talk a little bit about the first show you did when you arrived at the house of Schiaparelli because, for a lot of people, the first show of any new role is a big thing, but you didn’t just do the first show, you actually sat on the stage for it, sketching. I wanted to hear, first of all, the decision behind that, and also how you felt when you were in and amongst that action?
DR: From a feeling perspective, in the beginning, I get really nervous before any sort of speaking but when I’m about to do it I just go into a zen place, and I really loved being out there with the models. I really was cool as a cucumber when I was out there. I also knew it had never really been done before like that. I really personally wanted to do that, but also from a narrative perspective, I think it really worked. I was sitting in an outline of the studio I had in Chinatown [New York] and the disparity between the place of conception versus the place of the reveal [in Paris at haute couture week] was so inspiring to me. I think my personal sweet spot is to maintain the humble, generous, very open-heartedness, and juxtapose that with the highest level of luxury and hopefully creativity that I can possibly muster. That is where I want to be.
SC: Obviously, when you are making an entrance into a house with such a long backstory, it must be so daunting. Or perhaps it was less so because you were hungry for it?
DR: I think it was really great that both of those things were happening at once! The hunger won because it is incredibly overwhelming, it makes me emotional just to think about this role, this position I have found myself in. If I think too hard or if I take it too seriously it does have the potential to paralyse and crush, for that reason I really try, and of course, you have days where this is more of a reality than others, but I really try not to dwell on it too much… I choose the collection over everything else, so the least I can say is I’ve done my best. The day after the show, I think, “It could have been better and here’s how,” but you never know until you put it out. That first collection was not perfect, but it was guttural, and it was essential, it laid the foundation, and it was a two-month orgasmic exercise doing it – it was rough and ready.
SC: This leads me on to talk a little bit about Elsa. I love this idea you’ve talked about before, the barbaric hand of Elsa, could you explain a little bit more about how you see it in her work and how you’ve manifested it in your version of what the brand is?
DR: There is a radical quality to her work and also a disregard for tradition, which I really respond to because she was throwing the rule book away – but on the Place Vendôme! I think there is a weird having your cake and eating it quality to her work too, because it was wild, barbaric, rough and ready but it was still always deeply chic and very resolved. I think that is so hard to do if it’s not coming naturally, and with all of those greats you can feel it was a natural outpouring of who they were. These designers were completely unburdened by marketing plans and social media neurotics of wondering if it is going to perform and all of those questions we have to ask ourselves now. It was a guttural and creative brand-building exercise. That’s how itv feels to me, so I really have tried to keep things in that spirit. I’m using Elsa as a guide, but I never want people to feel like I’m doing an imitation of her, of couture or of European chicness. It’s so important it feels 100 percent me and Schiaparelli simultaneously.
SC: I love the fact, and I assume this is still the case, you’ve never read the Shocking Life autobiography book?
DR: What book?! [laughs]
SC: You were never even a tiny bit tempted?
DR: I read about two pages because Stephen [ Jones] gave me an old copy and then I was so not interested. I had to stop it right there because this is an exercise I don’t actually need to do. That might change one day.
SC: I think if you come to something too overwhelmed and over-saturated with stuff, you can’t really move the conversation forward.
DR: Fashion is so complicated. Think about Judy Garland, if MGM or whoever had built a brand around her as a performer, around her voice, the songs she sang, the performances she had done, and then Judy Garland dies. You bring back the house of Judy Garland but then you find Adele to sing in Judy Garland’s house, it’s non-sensical that you would ask someone who has their own voice to sing in the style of someone else! We can all understand there are performers or artists who have an incredible legacy. But today what I’m really interested in is making people feel something similar but on completely new terms. The world has changed so much, even in two years, and I look back at Elsa’s work as a guide for the heritage but so many people ask me about the archives and I’m not that interested in them. I really don’t think she would have been either, I truly don’t. I love her work and there are always one or two things that are great, but 90 per cent of my inspiration does not come from pouring over the archives.
“That first collection was not perfect, but it was guttural, and it was essential…”
SC: That’s a good point to move to talk about how you find inspiration and how a collection begins for you. Obviously, for some designers, there is an ongoing dialogue and for other people, it’s much more season-by-season, how does it happen for you?
DR: I am someone who needs an invitation in order to make a move, regardless of which sphere of my life, I need the door to be open. When I’m thinking about what the next season is, I’m looking for what door is opening, and what people want to see. Is it something that feels nostalgic or futuristic or lavish or opulent? Is it positive or is it something that is restrained? To me, the inspiration really starts from a call that I feel I have to answer, and then everything else flows from that. For some designers, it could be a colour or a story, a trip they’ve taken, but for me, I really feel within fashion we are in the service industry of the client and also of the industry that needs something from us. Pop culture needs something from us, musicians need something from us, so it’s more about starting from that. It’s a conceptual and emotional instinct.
SC: What’s inspiring you at the moment?
DR: It’s funny because this is such a tired sentiment but it’s really hard to find things that stick with you and inspire you right now. So much has been said – and rightly so – about how numbed out and overexposed we are. I long for a part of my brain that was taking information in before digital took over, and I think that is music, film and fashion, it’s definitely all pre-2007 it’s probably all pre-2004. I know that’s not very novel, and it’s probably been anticipated by god knows how many trend forecasters and sociologists, but that’s what is triggering me right now.
SC: Obviously, you’re great at drawing. What have you been drawing?
DR: I’ve been drawing my dream house. I haven’t told that to anybody. I’ve been drawing my dream house, which I imagine to be in the countryside somewhere. I am years away from logistically or financially being able to execute or achieve this reality, but when I go home my number one priority is to put gas back in the tank and self-soothe. Drawing my dream house room by room with dozens of floor plans has been very inspiring for me to do.
SC: I loved watching you drawing in the film you made for FW20 haute couture, it was such a beautiful insight into a creative process.
DR: Thank you. I really love drawing. I owe a lot of that to my mum.
SC: Let’s talk a little bit about the FW22 collection, because I think as a group of ideas, Edward Scissorhands, cone bras, Herb Ritts and jeans are an amazing combination! What was the idea behind that? Can you tell me more about that collection specifically?
DR: Ready-to-wear in a way follows couture in the calendar, but creatively the couture is always one step ahead and then it informs, it pours into the ready-to-wear. I think there was a sharpness we started to explore in the [SS22] couture; there was a piece with the gold nose that was worn with the ‘Doja Cat’ dress [as worn at the Billboard Awards by the musician], and I really loved that pointy hummingbird beak sharpness. We just kept saying we wanted it to be sharp, concise, rigorous, to the point and at the same time tender and openhearted. That is where the Edward Scissorhands reference came from, because he is untouchably sharp but also completely laid bare and exposed. It spoke to the way I felt about being alive last year. It’s interesting because ready-to-wear right now is always about reinforcing the reality of Schiaparelli clothing and the reality that we are making incredible ready-to-wear for every day at the same time as making red carpet and crazy couture stuff. To me, it was an exercise in that as well.
SC: In terms of the palette for the SS22 couture, this very spare palette, I’d like to hear your take on that, because it was something a lot of people picked up on and it did have a very striking mood.
DR: I really wasn’t seeing the world through coloured lenses last year when developing that collection. I think the rigour, purity and simplicity of no choices in colour were really relieving in a way and we all appreciated the simplicity of just saying, “Okay the fabrics are either this or that, they’re black, ecru or gold.” It always looks incredible, it felt very Elsa to me, and I was not in the mood to be considering what colour goes with what, it didn’t feel like the right exercise at that moment.
“To me, the inspiration really starts from a call that I feel I have to answer, and then everything else flows from that.”
SC: I also want to ask you, partly because they’re a series of my favourite movies, but you talked a little bit about Arrival, Dune, Prometheus, Interstellar and obviously I can see the connection between them and the clothes. It’s very clever that those movies inspired the collection because it’s obvious but it’s also not, I find those four films incredibly emotional but what is it about them you felt something for at that time?
DR: There is something a little bit about destiny in each one of them. Interstellar I just watched again, and I had this awareness of the smallest of space you occupy [as a human], but then one person can actually be taken care of by the entire universe. There is something both intimate and also incredibly vast about all of it, I think that is, in some very far-reaching and sweet way, how it feels to be a creative right now. You spend months, years and decades of your life labouring over work that is extremely personal and then it is released into a vast void, consumed, regurgitated and rejected or embraced in an instant. I think maybe I love those movies because I find them incredibly comforting and reassuring.
SC: I’m obsessed with Michael Fassbender playing the piano in Prometheus! Anyway. Let’s talk about jewellery. Because obviously in an industry obsessed with ‘it’ bags and hype sneakers, you’ve turned jewellery into this idea of super buzzy body décor. Can you talk a little bit about how that fits into your design practice and how you think about the brand?
DR: The jewellery was really born from the work that [Alberto] Giacometti did for Schiaparelli and there was a brooch of a sphynx in perfect textured gold. It was sort of a lightbulb moment because it was like, “Here is how we can address the heritage of the house and the codes in a way that feels new and timeless at the same time.” The second couture collection felt like a lift-off, with earrings, eyewear and buttons. We started mimicking the bijoux and they became embroideries. Then once Covid had struck, and we knew we were going to be presenting digitally, instinctively I knew jewellery was our key to connecting with a digital audience.
SC: During the pandemic one of the things people were buying into was jewellery, perhaps because it acts as an heirloom in a way that maybe a handbag doesn’t, it has more longevity. Talking about Giacometti – obviously someone like Elsa, you imagine her having a field day at Frieze or Art Basel! The worlds of art and fashion are so constantly connected to each other, and they always have been. But the house you work for genuinely has that at the centre of the brand DNA, how do you see those worlds, fashion and art, as bedfellows now?
DR: Jewellery is the closest thing to feeling like you’re buying a piece of art, more than a dress or a coat. As you said, there is a permanence to it and I remember walking through the West Village with one of my dearest friends during lockdown and we were spit-balling this idea of a collection where it was the end of the world and all of these incredibly fabulous people’s lives had been ruined by the pandemic or whatever, what would they take with them? You take your family, your art, your jewellery and you take the clothes that are on your back. I love the permanence and the preciousness but also the barbarism and the hardness of the object. Going to the Paris flea market here, looking at the old jewellery from Lacroix, everyone from that period, it is so inspiring to see the handwork of the artists, the semi-preciousness of it all, but also the instant gratification of it. You put it on, and it’s done [clicks fingers] and I love that so much, a part of me feels like these outfits start to feel like blank canvases and the bijoux becomes the chandelier in the room, it’s the lighting, it makes the whole experience, it’s so important.
SC: Tell me a little about the new exhibition opening at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, how involved have you been in that?
DR: The curation is something handled by the museum. I’ve been present during the process, but museums are a world in and of themselves. I’m just so excited for Elsa’s story to be told and for people to understand how influential she really was.
SC: Will your work be in the show?
DR: There will be a link between Schiaparelli today and her world throughout the collection. It might be a little early to be putting my work in the museum, but the story is about the house, and I think we have to finish by saying what the house stands for today and how it’s been reactivated.
SC: I feel like that’s going to be quite a surreal moment for you when the opening happens, it must be strange to see your own work in a museum in any context whatsoever let alone in a retrospective about someone like that.
DR: Yeah, you said it. I think it will be.
SC: Is it any more surreal than Lady Gaga at the inauguration, which I know you’re probably sick to death of talking about but at the same time I want to know how someone feels when they see that unfolding on TV whilst everyone around the globe is watching. Do you ever come to terms with being part of that?
DR: In the moment it’s really hard to access how profound it is or how important it’s going to be for your career, or how honoured you are to be a part of it. In hindsight, you do appreciate more and more how extraordinary and how lucky you are to be part of it. Anytime anyone wears anything I think it is the fruit of so many things that have to go right, including the mood of so many people: the stylist, the star, you never know. We don’t pay people to do this, so if something happens it’s because of all those factors, and I think Gaga was just the most heightened version of it – I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think it ever becomes normalised, but you do become more grateful when you realise how rare moments like that happen.
SC: Were you with her? Because I was trying to picture her reaction and your reaction together.
DR: No, we were on opposite sides of the planet. I really love that too, because clothes are a way of communicating and I heard she cried when she saw the pieces together. I think she really knew it was what she was destined to wear.
SC: Destiny is a big thread in this conversation. What do you hate about fashion at the moment?
DR: I hate that everyone, designers, design teams, whoever… have no breaks. Other artists release work when they have something to say, and you can control the calendar of your work schedule. The thing about fashion is you have no say in when, or how much work you have to produce. It’s constant, it’s all the time, and you have to be a complete psychopath to agree to do it but here I am.
SC: What do you say to people who think couture is elitist and nonsense?
DR: Nonsense? I would say, I respect your opinion and firmly disagree.
SC: Is social media killing creativity by making everything a bit over before it’s begun?
DR: No, but I think it’s so funny because even though it gives voice to so many things, I really think the only things that will last are the things that are great. We see so much more, but in ten years, what will you remember? Probably not all of the memes, nothing against memeing, but I think the rules of what will last still stand.
SC: There seems to be a lot of Virgos in fashion, why is that? I’ve also heard you’re interested in astrology.
DR: What’s your sign?
SC: Virgo [laughs].
DR: I think Virgos are the best workers. I am incredibly happy when I am working and creating, I think if there is any link between us, it is that. We are devoted to working, at least I feel that way. I’m not even a perfectionist about certain things but I am incredibly devoted to doing a good job.
SC: What adjectives would you like people to use to describe your Schiaparelli?
DR: Phenomenal [both laugh]. All of the superlatives, that’s what I’m working for. I want inspiring, generous, warm, phenomenal, creative and bold. I think bold and fearless are words that were used to describe the first collection. For me, bravery and boldness over perfection, I’ll take that any day.
SC: Whose wardrobe would you most like to spend the night in?
DR: No one’s, ever since I came out of the closet I never want to go back. I am so not that designer, I’m really not [laughs].
SC: Menswear, you dressed Jeremy O. Harris for the Tony’s and obviously Salvador Dalí is very connected to the house. There is tailoring. Would you ever launch men’s?
DR: I think we could, I definitely feel like I have something to say about the way boys dress and if that makes sense from Schiaparelli, absolutely. For now, I’m designing my own personal clothes, which feels like a good outlet.
SC: You love jeans. Why?
DR: To be honest I wore a three-piece suit with a shirt and tie with wing tips and everything for over ten years, before that I was in uniform going to school. What I really didn’t like about it was it put me apart from people, I lived in Brooklyn, but I wore this suit, and for the brand it was great because it sets you apart, but I want my work to be set apart and don’t feel the need to be seen. I like that there is something very disarming about denim-on-denim. I also love zero maintenance.
SC: Can we talk very quickly about To Paradise [a book by Hanya Yanagihara], because I don’t think I realised when I read it that there is a dedication to you in the book. First of all, it’s amazing. Second of all, what’s your favourite part of the book?
DR: I haven’t finished it! I literally read A Little Life two years into my friendship with Hanya [Yanagihara], I didn’t read it beforehand. I loved the first story in To Paradise, and I’m halfway through the second, I’ll have to tell you after I’ve finished it – I’m finishing it this summer.
SC: Last question, what are you doing after this interview?
DR: After this interview, I am racing upstairs to the [look] boards and I have a room full of people who will be asking me questions about every look in the couture. We’re doing a committee meeting about every look we’re working on, so the couture should be 33 looks and each one is a world in and of itself. We always say to each other, “Do people have any idea how hard it is to make clothes like this?” [laughs] I don’t think anyone cares and that is totally fine, but it is hard.
SC: Has your family been to a show before or is this the first one?
DR: My mum has been to almost every show since Thom Browne moved the women’s shows to Paris. I have a big family so it’s always a different mix, there are the usual suspects like my mum and dad, then there are the newbies who always come through, which is really special.
SC: Your sister just got married?
DR: She did. She wore Schap, which was fab!
Interview originally published in HEROINE 17 – out now!
all clothing and accessories by SCHIAPARELLI FW22 READY-TO-WEAR; earrings worn throughout, BENTE’S own
model BENTE OORT at PLATFORM AGENCY;
hair ALEXANDRY COSTA at ARTLIST PARIS using SHU UEMURA ART OF HAIR;
make-up ANNABELLE PETIT at WISE & TALENTED using NARS COSMETICS;
manicurist LILLY LIZÉ at ARTLIST PARIS;
casting SHAWN DEZAN at SD CASTING;
production ENTRÉE LIBRE