On a brisk morning in January 2022, a smattering of eminent guests like Kanye West and Naomi Campbell lined the gilded vestibule of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Paris following a fashion show, waiting to be received by Daniel Roseberry.
Unpretentiously dressed in a denim overshirt, a white shirt under a navy cardigan, navy slacks, white socks, and Asics, the designer’s humble attire and well-mannered disposition stood at odds with the ferocious talent that manifested itself in a dreamy procession of haute couture, the salubrious enclaves, and the distinguished parade eager to congratulate him.
Now in his third year as artistic director of Schiaparelli, a venerable haute couture house based on Paris’ Place Vendôme, Roseberry is striding forward with some of the most memorable fashion moments in the last decade.
From Lady Gaga’s blue and red ensemble, embellished with a gilded dove of peace brooch, at US President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, and Bella Hadid’s turn at the Cannes Film Festival in a low-neckline black gown with a rhinestone-detailed gilded brass necklace in the shape of trompe l’oeil lungs, to many other sightings—including Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian, Doja Cat, and many more—Roseberry has placed creativity and wonder squarely in the zeitgeist once more.
Many of these outfits originate on the runways which have poised Roseberry as the de-facto face for restoring fantasy in fashion.
As he transforms the 95-year-old house, founded in 1927 in Paris by the namesake Elsa Schiaparelli, the world looks toward the house once more. Known for its whimsical and experimental take on the rarified practice of haute couture, the laborious process of creating custom-fit designs, and a fluorescent shade of pink called ‘Shocking,’ Schiaparelli is a fashion house unlike any other.
The show in January served as a precursor for another monumental year with celebrity appearances and a landmark retrospective in Paris.
Six months later, in early July, the day after his autumn/winter 2022 haute couture show, Roseberry appears over Zoom in the early evening from his office in Place Vendôme. The fast-paced nature and demanding schedules of fashion seem lost to elude the 37-year-old’s glowing features, framed by a sculpted, greying beard.
Earlier that afternoon, he took meetings with supermodel Naomi Campbell and the Schiaparelli owner Diego Della Valle (who would have been pleased to know that the majority of the collection had already been snapped up by the brand’s ardent client base). At the show, Emma Watson cheered on alongside actress Hunter Schaffer and ascendant singer Rina Sawayama. Everyone wants a piece of the Schiaparelli pie.
“I see Schiaparelli as being increasingly necessary. When I look at what is happening in the rest of luxury fashion, where design, vision, and artistic statement have been sort of commandeered by marketing plans and the bloat of multibillion-dollar business—the need for Schiaparelli feels essential all of a sudden. I want to lean into that and continue to make fashion that feels unburdened by those things,” he said.
Roseberry’s design vocabulary is punctuated with dynamism, opulence and whimsy. Gowns are elevated to heightened, almost dramatic proportions, and suiting is rendered to razor-sharp degrees. Accessories, often gilded, and moulded from casts of bodies, have become instantly recognisable from here to the moon. Never one to imitate or issue recreations, Roseberry approached Schiaparelli with a blank slate, guided only by the principles of the house: waiving convention, an air of surprise, and imaginative takes on the possibility of clothing.
He said, “Schiaparelli exists on the fringes of what’s normal in couture. We do a good job at serving the clients’ desire for something alternative. If they want a classic piece or something on the safer side, there are a few other houses that would be the right place to go.” But for all the velvet dresses with bouquets of three-dimensional hand-painted tulips flowering from the bosom, glacial blue satin bouillonné skirts with sculpted effects, and corseted red gowns adorned with pendants and rhinestones, the designer behind it all is as affable as they come.
Born to a religious family in Plano, Texas, the Church loomed large over Roseberry’s childhood and adolescence. Sketching, fashion television, and pop culture in the 1990s, served as outlets for him to daydream and unleash his fantasies in a thrilling way. Following a missionary year in the Middle East and briefly considering joining a seminary, Roseberry eventually switched gears and enrolled in a fashion college in New York City.
More than small talk, Roseberry is willing to divulge intimate details about his collections and the thought processes behind them, as well as his hopes and dreams for a once sleepy house.
Instead of remaining coy or reticent about which celebrity he would like to dress (out of the few remaining that he hasn’t at this point), he is quick to let you know that it is Rihanna. His approachability is matched only by his ambition. You can probably anticipate a Schiaparelli design on the musician in the coming months. Undoubtedly, the process will be as engaging for her as it is for those with the privilege of spending time with the man behind the designs.
Much of the recent success of the house, Roseberry attributes to the litany of global icons who are “doing so much of the heavy-lifting” in terms of communicating what the house is about. The pace in which the Schiaparelli fantasy is developing, he said, is “inextricably linked to those moments”. Yet the meteoric rise, albeit owing to the famous faces drawn to his designs, does not revolve around paid brand placements. Celebrities come to Schiaparelli, not the other way around. “Schiaparelli is proof that we don’t ‘pay for play’ with celebrities, we don’t advertise. People are hungry for the fashion that we’ve been putting out,” he said.
Tim Blanks, a fashion journalist at The Business of Fashion, said, “Daniel’s work resonates because it is uniquely visual, witty, and fearless. It has a knowing, sly quality which is invaluable in fashion because it creates a kind of cognoscenti vibe, like you need to be ‘in the know’ to get it.”
Trino Verkade, a consultant for Sarabande: The Lee Alexander McQueen foundation, and trusted advisor to the late legendary designer, has known Daniel Roseberry for years. Describing him as “an old soul with an innocent heart,” Verkade considers the joy in his work along with his “effortless love for women” as the primary reasons why his work has touched so many in such a short span.
“Daniel questions the relevance of fashion above the concept of clothes, he ponders the future of humanity and what fashion can mean in our world today,” she added.
The zeitgeist has long been framed by the Schiaparelli vision. The founder counted a cast of Hollywood icons as fans and customers with everyone from Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Greta Garbo, and Joan Crawford sporting the brand. In addition to celebrities, the eponymous designer bridged the worlds of art and fashion with collaborations with surrealist artists Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau.
The impact of Schiaparelli is documented in the Shocking: The Surreal World of Elsa Schiaparelli exhibition at Paris’ Musée des Arts et Décoratifs, which opened shortly after Roseberry appeared on Zoom. Chronicling Schiaparelli’s relationship with the art world and impact on visual culture in the 1930s, the current artistic director said, “It’s only fair that we give credit where credit is due and go back to the origin story of where surrealism and art sort of had its beginnings in fashion.” From introducing zips on clothing in haute couture to the use of novelty fabrics and collaborations with the aforementioned artists of the time, Schiaparelli remained principled yet utterly rogue in the serious world of fashion. Schiaparelli fell out of favour during post-World War II austerity prompting the eponymous designer to shutter its doors and play out her retirement in Paris and Tunisia. After her death in 1973, the house lay dormant until the 2000s when magnate Diego Della Valle purchased the company. After two failed jumpstarts in the hands of capable designers Marco Zanini and Bertrand Guyon, the fate of Schiaparelli was placed in the hands of the American Roseberry.
Roseberry, whose work features in the final part of the exhibition, alongside upwards of 500 archival pieces, said, “Elsa’s story feels sort of like newly relevant as the brand continues to evolve and gain momentum.” However, the timing of the exhibition is a happy accident: planned pre-pandemic and delayed multiple times over the global lockdowns and the pause of international travel. When it finally opened, as the house reached new heights and new audiences, the timing was perfect.
“I want to approach every collection like it’s my first. The idea of that raw, virginal excitement or passion. There’s almost a tenderness to that naivety. It’s become one of my core values. I still think there’s a place for dreaming and romance, and I don’t see enough of it. I want to be a part of bringing it back.” However, as is the role of a contemporary designer, Roseberry said, “your creative process has to evolve, and your mastery of the techniques of couture has to evolve and become psychotically sophisticated, very quickly.”
In essence, haute couture invokes a heightened sensitivity towards one’s clothes in the same way that family heirlooms, passed through, generations carry a sentimentality that never loses its meaning, nor does the craftsmanship imbued in it. Simply, its tactility produces an emotional response that impulse purchases seldom do.
Roseberry explains that “everyone has a daily experience with fashion. First and foremost, it’s a dialogue between the practical utilitarian and the self-expression needs. But couture feels like the purest form of the art of one human making clothing for another human. The amazing thing about couture is that it’s both the pinnacle, but also the most primordial way, going back to the dawn of civilisation where one person would make a garment for another”.
On average, a Schiaparelli haute couture look can take up to 5,000 hours to finish. For example, in July’s show, a shimmering dress entirely made of 21,900 Swarovski crystals and 212,500 silver glass bugle beads, with a metal flower corset encrusted in rhinestones, took 4,900 hours to complete. Meanwhile, artisans spent 450 hours on a painstakingly precise process to fashion a top from 8,500 pale topaz beads. The apogee of creation, haute couture is an intensive process, one that requires the skilled craftsmanship of the petites mains, the seamstresses behind realising each design.
“The fact that we can show 34 looks on the runway and, at the end of the day, 34 people will have access to actually owning them or wearing them—in the midst of that, millions of people will see them; it’s kind of the Super Bowl of fashion,” he said. With the interest and demand for Schiaparelli accelerating at a rapid pace, bolstered by the opening of the exhibition in Paris, Roseberry is left to grapple with what comes next for the house. In questioning that, he has taken some time to reflect on his own accomplishment, something that creative people rarely have the opportunity to do.
“The scope is evolving at such an intense rate because we’ve already superseded or surpassed what people’s expectations were for this brand. I’m really proud of that, for myself, and for the team, that we’ve been able to elevate and propel the voice of the brand,” he said. “Dreams are expensive. The more that you pursue your dreams you realise not just how much it takes to make something beautiful, real, but how it’s a marathon, not a spring, building a career.” There might be countless unforgettable moments in fashion in the last three years, a number of them based on Roseberry’s designs. They don’t touch the surface, as far as he’s concerned. He’s only getting started.
“I always ask myself, ‘how can we push this further?’ It’s not enough yet. I’m hungry for more. I don’t think about the fact that we’re in Place Vendôme in what might be the most beautiful office in the world. I’m much more ‘dissatisfied.’ I think you have to be. It keeps the dream alive, it keeps you hungry, it keeps you coming back for more.”
- Shocking: The Surreal World of Elsa Schiaparelli is on display at the Musée des Arts et Décoratifs until 22 January 2023.