The Texan designer discusses turning models Mariacarla Bosconi and Maggie Maurier into glittering extraterrestrials, dressing Cardi B and Rihanna, and why he wants to make his mum cry
The sun is just beginning to set in Paris when Daniel Roseberry, dressed in his signature double-denim shirt and jeans, emerges from the Schiaparelli atelier and sits down on one of the salon’s tactile ecru sofas. It’s a few days before the Texan designer is due to debut his latest Haute Couture collection, and marks his first runway show for the storied house, after the virus that needs no introduction relegated him to lookbooks the last few years. As models and team members dash in and out past us, their shoes clacking on the parquet floors, Roseberry gets to revealing his star sign: he’s a triple Virgo, which he explains “makes a lot of sense”.
“I’m basically all earth and fire, I have no water or air in my chart at all,” he says. “So I’m really practical, pragmatic, strategic, analytical, and a perfectionist. My strengths are being romantic, imaginative, and fun. And the weaknesses are excessive, self-destructive, and unaware.” That perfectionism, he adds, is the one trait that really rings true. His wild creations, as worn by the likes of Lady Gaga, Cardi B, and Rihanna, are excessive in their details, but never, as they very easily could, veer into camp. From gold-plated breastplates to the moulded noses, ears, and nipples that punctuate each collection, Roseberry is a master of balancing excess and restraint, expertly toeing the line between not quite enough and just that little too much.
After getting stuck into a long list of sci-fi movies – including Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Dune – during the long, languid days of lockdown earlier this year, now, Roseberry is now inviting us to blast off to Planet Schiaparelli. Choosing the Petit Palais as his show venue, yesterday (January 24), on the first day of the SS22 couture shows, the designer presented his latest Schiaparelli offering as sun streamed through the long sash windows, bathing the runway in heavenly golden light. The clothing itself was understated, with sweeping column dresses, moulded bustiers, and sharp jackets with nipped-in waists demonstrating Roseberry’s knack for clean, contemporary glamour (“I definitely didn’t want to do ‘poofy’, like I think a lot of people expect from couture”). But it came alive, unsurprisingly, through its eccentric, painstakingly rendered details.
With their hair swept up into cone-like chignons, the models became beings not of this world, with gold-plated rings orbiting their heads like Saturn’s rings, or planets literally dangling from their ears via heavy, door-knocker earrings. A glittering beaded sheath dress was embroidered with celestial blasts of light, while jellyfish-like tentacles erupted from the neckline of a gown worn by Mariacarla Bosconi, wobbling and bouncing as she made her way slowly, slowly down the catwalk. Meanwhile, a show-stopping moment – which sent any iPhones that remained on laps surging into the air – came via an intricate, cage-like structure, which turned its wearer into a gilded, extraterrestrial god. Playful flourishes in the form of carved golden skulls carried as bags, and two golden baguettes tucked under one models’ arm, sealed the deal. It was pure, escapist fantasy, rooted in unmatched technical know-how and skill.
As our preview draws to a close, Roseberry explains that this collection had pushed him well beyond the outer limits of his comfort zone. “Doing this show has really freaked me out,” he says, before laughing. “But even though at points I was terrified, I’ve come out of it feeling more confident and more tuned into the house. We’re sharpening our knives now, really refining what we do. It’s like something clicked.” As the dust settles on day one of the Haute Couture shows, read more on what the designer had to say about his SS22 collection, and click through a series of exclusive backstage photographs by Cris Fragkou in the gallery above.
Hey Daniel! First of all, can you tell me why you picked the Petit Palais for your first couture show? Does it hold any special meaning for you?
Daniel Roseberry: Well, you know, I wanted someplace kind of big, because with all the restrictions and the fact we’ve been locked down, I didn’t want people to feel claustrophobic. But on a more creative level, I wanted somewhere that felt almost a little religious. Like a church. I looked at a lot of different venues, but when I walked into the Petit Palais, I was refreshed. The sun was streaming in the windows, it felt sort of pure. I was lucky in that the COVID lockdowns were an amazing experience for me creatively. There was no contamination. I wanted to bring that purity and pleasure to my audience, in a place that felt really clean, refreshing, and charming. And the Petit Palais did the job.
What inspired the collection this season?
Daniel Roseberry: I really wanted to challenge myself and the team, because we had such a major year last year. It was a big breakthrough moment for the house, and a lot of that came from the red carpet. I think people were expecting big, poofy volume, and bright, bold colours, but we really wanted to do something that challenged that. But I still wanted to achieve that big emotional swell from those watching, only without the poofiness. So it’s all black, ecru, and gold, and it’s all really sharp. It was like we were sharpening our knives in the atelier, with things getting clearer and clearer as we went. Around the time I really fell in love with fashion, there was McQueen, there was Galliano, and there was Marc who were all really reinventing every season, and I loved the radicalness of that. I feel like we have the luxury of being able to do this at Schiaparelli. We don’t have a huge commercial marketing machine behind us, so we can go wild and be really creatively flexible. I love taking advantage of that.
“I love to go wild with the surrealism. It feels like we can really lean into that. But I never want to be camp. We always walk the line, and often flirt with bad taste or pop culture, but I’m not interested in veering too far into that. I feel like I’d rather stay a little subversive” – Daniel Roseberry
How did you first fall in love with fashion, and when did you start thinking maybe this could be a job for you?
Daniel Roseberry: I fell in love with fashion when I was probably 13, but I’d always loved seeing people getting dressed up. My dad was a priest, so we’d get up and go to church every weekend. My mom would be dressed up, everyone else would be dressed up, every single week. It was like a fashion show, the way we’d walk down the runway to music surrounded by flowers. There was a theatricality and ceremony to it all, which captivated me on a deep, deep level. And then, when I was maybe 16, the Style Network came to Dallas, and my family got a three-month trial. That’s where I first saw stuff like (BTS fashion series) Behind The Velvet Rope. But it was actually a documentary they made about Michael Kors that blew my mind. He was from the suburbs of Long Island, he was discovered dressing windows at Barneys, and he was a student at FIT, which is where I ended up going. And the rest is history, I guess.
Was there a specific moment the power of fashion clicked for you?
Daniel Roseberry: I think I actually didn’t understand fashion’s power until I went to Thom Browne and started making people cry. That’s actually what I was telling my team in the lead up to the show – I want weeping and gnashing of teeth. But as long as my mom cries, I’ll be happy.
If she’s anything like my mum, she’ll be crying before it’s even started…
Daniel Roseberry: Oh definitely. The tears are cheap when it comes to the moms (laughs).
What did you know of Schiaparelli before you came to the house, and what was your opinion of it? Were you a fan?
Daniel Roseberry: I think everyone who studies fashion has a special place in their heart for Schiap. But I’m not a fashion history buff, and I’m not consumed by Elsa’s body of work. When I started, I really wanted to wear the archive lightly, and not go too far into them. But I have so much respect for her work, and whenever I feel creatively stumped or stuck, it feels good to know I have this amazing heritage to lean into. And I feel like now that my team and I have set the terms of Schiap, we have the ability to go back and engage with the archives in a more literal way sometimes. Which is really great.
Aside from the archives, where do you look for inspiration?
Daniel Roseberry: I wouldn’t say there’s anywhere specific. I think for me it always starts with what do I want? What would I want to see if I was a fashion student again? What would I be gagging for? Most of the time, when I get stopped on the street here, which I sometimes do, it’s usually by a student. And I think if you’re getting stopped by students, it’s the biggest indicator you’re doing something right. So I’m really inspired by that.
“I think everyone who studies fashion has a special place in their heart for Schiap. But I’m not a fashion history buff, and I’m not consumed by Elsa’s body of work. When I started, I really wanted to wear the archive lightly, and not go too far into them” – Daniel Roseberry
Can you talk me through any key or fave pieces from the new collection?
Daniel Roseberry: So there’s some amazing, very rigorous tailoring at the beginning of the collection that I love. I was actually researching and watching a lot of the Zeigfield Follies, which is a movie from the early 40s that (legendary costume designer) Adrien created these spectacular costumes for, and there was this piece that comes close to the end of the show, which we call the naked dress, that I love. It’s kind of a little like that look Isabella Rossellini has in Death Becomes Her, when she’s naked on top but for all those beaded necklaces. So we were like, ‘Okay, let’s make a naked dress where she’s just wearing jewels!’
We actually had this dinner at Bergdorf Goodman and I had drawn and painted all over the tablecloth, which was really fun. We got them to send it over here, and then traced the artwork and had little sculptures made of all the drawings in clay. Then we took really thin leather, wet it, and stretched it over the clay sculptures, so we had this molded, three-dimensional character. When it dried, we took the clay part away, gold-leafed it, and covered it with crystals and cabochons from the 1930s we found here in a market in Paris. So whoever wears it is kind of covered in creepy crawlies. That kind of process could only happen in couture, it’s so beautiful. I think people will be gagged by that one.
And so everything you do is kind of brilliantly weird, and often pretty surreal. Do you ever feel like things are getting too weird, and have to pull it back? Where’s the line?
Daniel Roseberry: Oh, I love to go wild with the surrealism. It feels like we can really lean into that. But I never want to be camp. We always walk the line, and often flirt with bad taste or pop culture, but I’m not interested in veering too far into that. I feel like I’d rather stay a little subversive. Schiap was never about camp in the literal sense, like a showgirl kind of way, you know? There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not for us. But there’s always a conversation about whether we’re going too far, whether we’re going far enough. It’s always such a journey. I always turn to the team, and I’m like ‘Do you think anyone realises how hard it is to make cool clothes?’ And I really don’t think a lot of people get it. To hold on to the vision, to keep it pure, and what you want it to be, is the biggest learning curve I’ve been on since I started.
Whose ears and noses and other body parts are the pieces molded from? Do any of them belong to you or your team?
Daniel Roseberry: No! We have a few different people, like Maggie (Maurer), who’s the muse of the house. She’s volunteered a bunch of body parts across the last year and a half. We also have a body model who we cast. For the eyes, like the irises, it’s usually a composition of two or three different irises depending on the season. It’s actually such a beautiful process, making the molds. When the cold plaster goes on, the model sometimes gets goosebumps, which dry into the molding and create this beautiful texture. I love them.
“I feel like all you can do as a designer, as an artist, or a creative, or a writer, or whatever, basically, is just try to be obedient to whatever your gut instinct is. So much of this job is listening to what feels right. Listening to that voice that knows” – Daniel Roseberry
How did you meet Maggie? And what is it about her you find so captivating?
Daniel Roseberry: She’s honestly, truly one of a kind. I met her years ago when I was working at Thom Browne. She’s not the tallest, but there’s some sort of magic proportions to her body. That’s both feminine and athletic. Her face is familiar, but also feels aristocratic. And whenever I see her, I just want her to start talking. I want her to act. I want her to be accepting an Oscar one day. She’s an extraordinary model and a beautiful person.
You’ve dressed Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and now Julia Fox. Who’s next on the hit list, who would you love to see in Schiaparelli?
Daniel Roseberry: I mean, I feel so lucky that these women have all embraced what we’re doing here. But I’d love to have a custom Rihanna moment. And I’d love to dress Nicole Kidman. Or Cate Blanchett, maybe for the Oscars. But honestly, I’m happy right now. It’s more about maintaining the momentum, and not taking it for granted. Seeing people embrace and respond to Schiap, whoever they are, is the goal for 2022.
What advice would you go back and give yourself at the start of this journey?
Daniel Roseberry: I feel like all you can do as a designer, as an artist, or a creative, or a writer, or whatever, basically, is just try to be obedient to whatever your gut instinct is. So much of this job is listening to what feels right. Listening to that voice that knows. I’m getting much better at this. It’s about taking the plunge, gut reaction, and scaring yourself. Doing things that freak you out! And this show has really freaked me out (laughs). But even though at points I was terrified, I’ve come out of it feeling more confident and more tuned into the house. It’s like something clicked.