The Independent


As Schiaparel­li goes viral with faux animals, Olivia Petter asks if the fashion industry has sold its soul to social media


Bondage bears. A runway covered in mud. Spray-painting a dress. These are just a handful of viral moments created by the fashion industry in recent months. All of them provoked outrage. Some caused offence. Others led to criticism. Now, the industry can add another notch onto its online scandal belt: giant fake taxidermy.

On Monday, at Couture Fashion Week in Paris, models Irina Shayk, Naomi Campbell and Shalom Harlow walked the Schiaparel­li runway in garments adorned with the heads of a lion, wolf and leopard, respective­ly. Kylie Jenner also wore the lion design to attend the show. The life-size mock-ups were made entirely from foam – and designer Daniel Roseberry has keenly stressed that “no animals were harmed” in their creation. The collection was inspired by Dante’s Inferno, with the animals intended to serve as a “reminder there is no such thing as heaven without hell; there is no joy without sorrow; there is no ecstasy of creation without the torture of doubt”.

It’s a somewhat tenuous link, made more so by Roseberry’s comments to Vogue: “The animals are one of the four literal references that I took from Dante’s Inferno,” he said. “In the first cycle of Dante’s journey, he faces terrors. He confronts a lion, a leopard, and a she-wolf. They each represent different things. But the lion and the animals are there as a photoreali­stic approach of surrealism and trompe l’oeil in a different way.”

What exactly they represent, though, beyond showing how easy it is to create lifelike taxidermy, remains somewhat unclear. Hence why the brand has sparked online furore, with people criticisin­g it for depicting dead animals. “Grim! Real or fake, this just promotes trophy hunting. Yuck!” wrote Carrie Johnson, the wife of former prime minister Boris Johnson, in a post on her private Instagram. “Be better,” wrote photograph­er Misan Harriman in a post on his Instagram.

Others took the stunt as a slight on conservati­on, with one person tweeting: “The world today has only 20,000 lions, [which are] not evenly distribute­d. India has just 600 Asiatic lions in its western region. Government­s have worked hard for their preservati­on. @KylieJenne­r this isn’t fashion, it’s a grave insensitiv­ity towards a critical animal.”

However, not everyone agreed that the collection was quite so offensive. Animal rights organisati­on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has spoken out in favour of the collection. “These fabulously innovative three-dimensiona­l animal heads show that where there’s a will, there’s a way – and

Kylie, Naomi, and Irina’s looks celebrate the beauty of wild animals and may be a statement against trophy hunting, in which lions and wolves are torn apart to satisfy human egotism,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of Peta, told Metro in a statement. Meanwhile, on yesterday’s episode of Good Morning Britain, the former MP and now presenter Ed Balls said criticism of the designs was “political correctnes­s gone mad” and asked whether Johnson would be offended by The Lion King.

Regardless of whether you have an opinion on Schiaparel­li’s show or not, few can deny just how much noise it’s created. Anyone on social media in the last 24 hours will have had a hard time avoiding the photograph­s – if not from Kylie Jenner herself, who has more than 379 million Instagram followers, then from one of the other millions of people that have since shared them alongside their respective takes.

Animal conservati­on aside, all of this taps into a wider question about what’s dictating the modern fashion industry. Sure, it’s provocativ­e to put giant animal heads on clothes. Just as it’s provocativ­e to put a topless Bella Hadid on the runway and spray her with a chemical that turns into a dress. And some would say that fashion’s role in culture is – and has always been – to spark shock and, subsequent­ly, conversati­on. But just how valuable is

that conversati­on when almost none of it is actually about fashion, or even art?

Nobody who is talking about the Schiaparel­li show is talking about Dante’s Inferno, for example. Nor are they reflecting on what it means to blur the boundaries between what’s real and what isn’t, as Roseberry posits in his show notes, or any of the other meticulous­ly crafted pieces he created in the collection. They’re just sharing photos of a dead lion.

Similarly, with the aforementi­oned Coperni stunt starring Hadid, nobody outside of the industry spoke about the great artistry of a spray-on dress, or the revolution­ary chemical that was used to create it. Instead, they were mostly talking about Hadid’s lithe limbs, which were prominentl­y on display, and then using the footage for TikTok videos.

Fashion has a long history of staging stunts, of course. But compare these modern-day iterations to those from a distant pre-social media age and the distinctio­n is stark. The late Alexander McQueen, for example, famously put Harlow in a white multilayer­ed strapless tulle dress in his Spring 1999 show, before robotic arms began spraying it in black and yellow paint. It was a moment of pure performanc­e art, particular­ly because Harlow herself is a trained ballerina, and interacted with the robots with grace and poise as the turntable she stood on moved.

Despite the obvious parallels with Coperni, nothing can quite compare to that moment. Nor could it compete with the hologram of Kate Moss that graced McQueen’s runway in 2006, in which she appeared as an apparition in a white frothy gown. Or the model that resembled an angel and was suspended in mid-air during Thierry Mugler’s 10th anniversar­y show in 1984. All of these were tangible artistic moments that feature prominentl­y in fashion’s history books. Today, though, that

cultural capital is only achieved if something goes viral on TikTok. And what’s more likely to do that? A beautiful piece of performanc­e art, or Kylie Jenner wearing an animal on her chest?

There are a few reasons why the latter hits differentl­y. The first is where it hits: on social media, where everything is reduced to a 30-second video you barely acknowledg­e, or a photograph you scroll past while you’re on the loo. When something goes viral, it captures our full attention for a certain amount of time. But because of the fast-paced nature of the internet, it becomes disposable overnight – a relic from just another day online. It takes a lot for something to transcend today’s throwaway culture and carry some sort of meaning in years to come. Putting a lion on the body of one of the most famous reality TV stars in the world doesn’t quite cut it.

Sadly, though, this is the way many of us now consume fashion, and therefore how designers are tailoring their shows: standout moments that don’t require context for impact, because the internet doesn’t have time to digest it anyway. It’s the antithesis to art, which requires focus, analysis, and examinatio­n – things that were far easier to achieve in an analogue world. Perhaps we simply don’t have the patience for it anymore.

And so none of this is necessaril­y the fashion industry’s fault, of course. Wanting to cause a scene on social media makes sense from a business perspectiv­e – not only does it introduce the brand to new audiences, it helps to present it as relevant, or at least an integral cog in the wheel of online discourse. But perhaps Schiaparel­li has shown us that things are going too far.

Besides, if you actually wanted to celebrate the glory of the natural world, as Roseberry stated, there are arguably far better ways to do that than by recreating an incredibly lifelike decapitate­d animal.

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 ?? (AP) ?? Ky l ie Jenner wore the l uxury Ita l ian brand’s l ion design to attend Couture Fashion Week in Paris
(AP) Ky l ie Jenner wore the l uxury Ita l ian brand’s l ion design to attend Couture Fashion Week in Paris
 ?? (Shuttersto­ck) ?? I rina Shayk on the Schiapare ll i runway with an anima l head made entire l y of foam
(Shuttersto­ck) I rina Shayk on the Schiapare ll i runway with an anima l head made entire l y of foam
 ?? (Shuttersto­ck) ?? Naomi Campbell wearing a wolf head – the use of animal heads received criticism for trivia l ising conservati­on
(Shuttersto­ck) Naomi Campbell wearing a wolf head – the use of animal heads received criticism for trivia l ising conservati­on
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