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Schiaparelli’s “Giant Woman”

Schiaparelli, a house founded in Paris in 1927, has made surrealism its trademark. Season after season, the collections offer highly structured pieces often evoking real sculptures, and the one presented on Monday January 23 in Paris, during the spring-summer 2023 haute couture shows, is no exception to the rule.

Articulated around Hell, of Dante, she takes up the theatricality with the characters that punctuate the story as a backdrop: we find lion or leopard heads more real than life made of faux fur and resin, as well as this spectacular giant woman’s head, shaped in a patinated brass. A sculpture that evokes a moving statue, and that Daniel Roseberry, head of the Schiaparelli house collections since 2019, has chosen to decipher for The world.

On the left: adjustment of the sculpture by the sculptor Michel Carel in the Schiaparelli workshops, place Vendôme, in Paris.  On the right: the sculpture in raw brass, galvanized in copper and which will then be patinated and polished for the final effect, in Michel Carel's workshop in the 20ᵉ arrondissement.

Daniel Roseberry: “Every morning, I come on foot to the design studio, crossing the Tuileries gardens, and I tirelessly pass in front of the bronze statue standing woman, by the sculptor Gaston Lachaise. It dates from 1932 and represents a naked woman, in exaggerated proportions and forms, with an impressive stature. For more than three years I wanted to take inspiration from it to imagine a giant woman in one of my collections. The collection is called “Inferno”, after Hell, of Dante, story in which there is a giant. Everything made sense to me.

I started by creating models of a papier-mâché head, then on a computer to visualize what it would look like in 3D, in real size. Finally, we called on the talents of Michel Carel, an extraordinary metallurgist sculptor who was trained by Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, and with whom we have been collaborating for a long time. The advantage of haute couture collections is to be able to exchange with fabulous craftsmen, who have a long experience. Michel Carel has worked in the past with John Galliano or Thierry Mugler. It makes the internal structures of our clothes.

Fitting in the presence of Daniel Roseberry (left), in the Schiaparelli workshops.

I gave him a drawing of my “Standing Woman”, and he got to work, it took him about two months. At first, I only wanted a brass head, which the model could put on like a helmet. It requires a lot of technical skills, because it mustn’t be too heavy, with an internal system so that she can see… I was very satisfied with the result, but Michel couldn’t sleep at night, he absolutely wanted go further.

He came back two weeks later with a structure to make a breastplate in the neck and the bust, in the continuity of the head. And I’m absolutely delighted that it obsessed him! The structure accompanies a very simple silhouette, composed of a corseted jacket and a black skirt, all cut in a thick wool crepe. I don’t know yet where this silhouette will fit in the collection, but I want it to create a real surprise on the catwalk. Haute couture has long been considered disconnected from reality, too traditional. For me, exercise is very much part of today’s pop culture. »

Backstage at the Schiaparelli fashion show.
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