Elsa Schiaparelli's work was all about the element of surprise, so much so that the Haute Couture house has become a place of wonder to people who came to it in quest for looks that truly pack a statement. Every collection that was revealed throughout its history counted a different story, and the one we discovered this season at Paris Couture Week certainly had its own to tell: it was a new kind of surrealism embodied through a spirit of mimicry, blurring every line between the real and the unreal. Poet Dante Alighieri's masterwork "The Divine Comedy" in its Inferno part inspired artistic director Daniel Roseberry for the perfect metaphor it provided for the torment that every artist or creative person experiences during the creative procedure, the fear of the unknown and the doubt of creation, which, as Elsa proved, is what pushes you to create something new and shocking.
Stepping away from techniques and exploring the scary dark wood, he revealed a collection that pays an homage to Dante's sense of organization, as three looks for each of the nine circles of hell walked down the runway. The leopard, the lion and the she-wolf were the heroes of this story, embodied through spectacular faux-taxidermy creations entirely handcrafted from manmade materials such as foam and resin. Pailletes made from leather-slicked slabs of tin trembled from some of the dresses, while velvet column dresses that seamed iridescently shimmery were hand-painted in pigment that changes color depending on your perspective. The surprise factor wasn't limited to these creations, as plastrons sculpted in waves of real mother-of-pearl and lemon tree marquetry, as well as a giant bust made of copper and patina'd by hand, enhanced the collection with what we can only call a true Schiaparelli flair.