How Schiaparelli Became The Hottest Brand In Fashion

Legendary surrealist artist Salvador Dali once said about Elsa Schiaparelli, “No one knows how to say Schiaparelli but everyone knows what it means.” And it couldn’t get truer than that. In the 28 years of her career (1927-1954), Elsa Schiaparelli was one of, if not the largest, names in the world of haute couture.

In an era riddled with wars and uncertainty, Schiaparelli made dresses that offered women a chance to escape the pragmatism that dominated fashion at the time and delve into a world of surrealist whimsy. Her designs were not the way they appeared to be. Heeled shoes were tweaked into hats. A realistic bow on a black jacket turned out to be a stitched design, leading to the birth of Tromp L’oeil – the fashion term for optical illusion in clothing. At a time when fashion brands collaborating with even each other was unheard of, she worked with Salvador Dali to make the first crossover between fashion and art.

Elsa Schiaparelli Bow Sweater

But this article is not really about Elsa. This is the story of how, decades after the house closed down in 1954, it was revived and brought back into the collective consciousness by American designer and current creative director of the house, Daniel Roseberry. Now, don’t get me wrong; the brand has been around since 2014, with Marco Zanini and Bertrand Guyon as creative directors of the maison, respectively. Although both stayed true to the playful, quirky nature of Elsa Schiaparelli’s designs, it was with Roseberry that the brand hit the jackpot. Within a couple of years of his appointment as the creative lead in 2019, Roseberry had established Schiaparelli as one of the most sought-after couture brands in the world.

Unlike his predecessors, the new designer brought a more sober spirit to the designs. Shocking pink was no more at the heart of the Schiaparelli couture. Pops of colour were limited to darker shades. Black, white and gold dominated the colour palette. Surrealism and over-the-top accessories inspired by nature and the human body took centre stage. His purpose for the role, he once noted, was to create collections that lingered on in his audience’s mind long after the season ended.

Red Carpet Royalty

While his couture collections carefully established his signature style for his tenure at the Italian Fashion house for fashion circles, it was the red carpet moments that made the Schiaparelli brand the talk of the town.

Barely a year after taking the reigns at Schiaparelli, Roseberry dressed Lady Gaga for the latter’s performance of the national anthem at US President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The custom look – a red ball skirt and a fitted black jacket with a golden dove – was made bulletproof for the occasion. The addition of the dove brooch made a powerful statement for peace, with many even comparing the brooch with the Mockingjay of The Hunger Games. It was the kind of moment many designers consider the high point of their career, and cemented Daniel Roseberry’s Schiaparelli as a brand to look out for.

However, it was not before Bella Hadid’s red carpet look at the Cannes that Schiaparelli became a household name. Bella’s sleek wool crepe gown with its plunging neckline was rather simple; the show-stopper was the gold-toned necklace covering her breast. Taken from Schiaparelli’s fall 2021 collection, it featured the human bronchial network – the webwork of hundreds of airways that deliver oxygen to our lungs – a bold fashion statement for an event held at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schiaparelli was soon the go-to brand for celebrities around the world. It seemed to be almost everywhere, from its subtle presence in US First Lady Jill Biden’s jacket with its padlock and eye-shaped bijoux buttons or its on-your-face mask (no pun intended) and accents on this black gown Cardi B wore to the 2021 American Music Awards.

Across the globe, Chinese singer Liu Yuxin opted for a Schiaparelli ensemble for her performance at the 2021 Tencent Music Entertainment Awards. In 2022, Natasha Poonawalla dazzled at the Met Gala in a Schiaparelli bustier decked in a gilded Sabyasachi saree.

But gold and blacks are not something that Roseberry is limited to. For Fall 2023, the designer made the puzzle dress, with irregular pieces of different colours crocheted together to form an illusion of the human anatomy. The dress made for an iconic red carpet moment when Hunter Schaffer wore it for The Hunger Games Premiere in Berlin.

The Showstopper

Meanwhile, Roseberry’s couture shows have become the most sought-after event in almost every fashion week. Every collection seemed to draw from the previous one, and inspiration ranged from classical literature to aliens and space travel. Yet surrealism was at the heart of every one of these collections.

But the fun part about the shows was not just the models and their clothes on the runway. Daniel Roseberry’s couture shows made its first-row invitees a part of the show as well. Case in point, Doja Cat’s red Swarovski crystal look at the spring 2023 show. For a collection that was inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Inferno and featured scarily lifelike headpieces of three animals that guarded hell in the epic – a lion, a leopard and a she-wolf – it seemed like Doja, covered head to toe in fiery red, was Roseberry’s way to include the devil.


The same show also had Kylie Jenner sitting in the front row wearing the same faux taxidermy lion gown as Irina Shayk as the latter went down the runway.

The internet was in splits, but that has not been too much of a concern for the American designer. After all, this was a house founded by a woman who wanted to shock people through its designs.

And when front row fashion wasn’t in the headlines, the out-of-the-world designs were. Schiaparelli’s Spring 2024 show, titled Schiaperalien, gave it a cult status amongst fashion enthusiasts. A love letter to the Alien movies and ’90s technology, the collection featured exoskeleton dresses and 3D-printed spines. A model walked down in a dress made of motherboards. Another, in what would probably be a white couture version of Ripley’s tank top and cargo pants, carried a robotic baby, on her arms.

To give you a context of how big this collection was, this was the same season John Galliano presented his Artisanal collection for Maison Margiela, which has since been considered one of the best shows in recent history. Despite the hype for Margiela, Roseberry’s Schiaparalien collection was still a part of the conversation on best collections that season.

And that brings us to the house’s latest collection. Schiaparelli’s Fall 2025 show was spectacular both due to the ambience and superior design and fabric manipulation. Within moments since the show started, the collection was hailed as the best in Paris Fashion Week 2024.

This collection was titled The Phoenix and was a centred around the idea of rebirth. Meanwhile, for Elsa Schiaparelli, whose vision and creative genius gave women a chance to rediscover themselves through the surreal quirks of her designs, this show was an homage warmly welcomed.

Also read: Fast Fashion Brands Are Moving Towards Luxury. What Now?

Digital Intern

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content