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Prettiness in Strength: Schiaparelli “Matador” Couture Fall/Winter 2021-2022

The iconic silhouette of a matador takes form at the doors of this performance. A myriad of bejeweled eyes gaze at the viewer, adorned with gold and embroidery. A medley of terracotta oranges, salmony pinks, cornflower blues and lavenders spruce up the room as they bloom among the contrasting gold, silver and black. These Surrealist creations belong to Daniel Roseberry of Schiaparelli, who in his two years of working as Creative Director has captured the perfect blend between honoring the legacy of the house and pushing the envelope for haute couture, as he does so with his latest collection.

Conceived in three parts, the collection pays tribute to the Elsa Schiaparelli archives. Beginning with a set of matador jackets and toreador tops, the first look embodies these earlier, distinct shapes, composed of an assemblage of vintage Schiaparelli swatches as a multicolor peau de soie. The sleek curve of the glossy silver castoreño (wide-brimmed round hat) coupled with the highly ornate and asymmetrical chaquetilla (a short jacket) conveys Roseberry’s futuristic yet nostalgic spin of the traditional matador’s traje de luces (“suit of lights”). Matador clothing typically consisted of a short jacket, a waistcoat, and knee-length skintight trousers of silk and satin, richly beaded and embroidered in gold, silver or colored silk—dipping these fabrics into rosy pinks and mint greens introduces an element of daintiness, perhaps symbolic of the dexterity bullfighters were required to have.

Some looks portrayed the target of the match instead: the bull. With the close, contoured fit and cinching of an additional garment at the hips, perhaps signifying a successful pass with the matador’s muleta (cape), and plunging heart-shaped necklines that extend into the shape of a bull’s horns, Roseberry achieves a look that is strong and confrontive yet tinged with elegance. A strapless wool crepe dress with a similar neckline captures another stage of the bullfighting—the grand exposition that ends it all. Lined with silk lurex made by hand, the foil-like gold explodes in an exaggerated bubble-like manner around the model, redefining the silhouette completely.

Accessories turned protagonists fill the next room—from a minaudière shaped like a giant pair of lips, palm-sized crosses dangling from models’ ears, to a belt clasp with a cast hand, encapsulating the quintessential complexity of couture. A model dons a bustier made of several jeweled, epoxy gold and silver metal body parts and animals constructed in a cross. Not to mention the look that has taken the world by storm, the long-sleeved black dress with a low-cut neckline, pervaded by a gilded brass necklace in the shape of trompe l’oeil lungs; a golden chest plate. Disproportion, asymmetry and anatomy all enveloped in a kind of abstract romanticism—this is integral to the house’s vocabulary.

The final is an unapologetic, joyous celebration of color. Roseberry pushes prettiness to the fore with a long bubble dress in mauve taffeta, puffed with balloon sleeves, a black stretch velvet midi dress with a tremendous shocking-pink silk faille rose at its core, and a gown alight with its fiery orange lip-shaped bust and matching train. Throughout the collection, there is an amorous dialogue between masculine and feminine, hard and soft, machine and human, metal and fabric. This collection is a flamboyant testament to how beauty can still champion and flourish in a time full of restriction, but also revision and resilience.

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