On a scorching summer afternoon in Paris, two days before his debut Schiaparelli haute couture show, Daniel Roseberry is making some final adjustments to the back of an acid yellow crystal-encrusted evening dress with long, billowing sleeves. A Mariah Carey song plays in the background as he examines the look on a model, alongside one of the white-coat-clad couturiers from the Schiaparelli atelier.
The 33-year-old Texas-born artistic director, dressed in a denim button-down, black jeans and black cowboy boots, speaks in English, while another member of the atelier translates his directions into French. At one point, he pulls out his sketchpad and whips up an illustration to clarify a detail. Pins are put in place and the look is hurried back upstairs to be altered that night. Such is the order of today — making alterations on the show’s looks — 34 in all, which will be reduced to 30 by showtime.
This is the beauty of couture, in which individual garments are made to fit down to the last millimeter and treated as works of wearable art. This is especially true at Schiaparelli, which was founded in the late 1920s by the avant-garde, surrealist Italian couturier Elsa Schiaparelli. (One of Roseberry’s new skirts even bears the tag “Original Artwork.”) Roseberry arrived just two months ago, having previously worked with Thom Browne in New York for over a decade — most recently in the role of design director of men’s and women’s collections.
After his appointment in late April, Roseberry had just two months to put together what he called a “shotgun” collection, leaning on the expertise of the atelier to bring his wildest visions to life. “A lot of the collection was informed by playing to the strengths of the team here in the atelier,” he says. “This house is this sleeping giant of talent — the people are here because they die for ‘Schiap.’”
While Roseberry also holds the founder in great reverence, he made a point of not including too many of Schiaparelli’s iconic tropes in his debut collection. In fact, he says, he referenced only one image of a Schiaparelli design — a fragrance bottle — in his application for the role. “The past is really heavy at Schiap: More than silhouette, you have these moments of myth and mythology and iconography that she established,” he says. “When I got here, I wanted to do the same thing, but not have it be about the past at all.” Referring to Schiaparelli herself, he says, “I think she would have totally been cool with embracing the now.”
His starting point, instead, was to focus on the house pillars of innovation and irreverence — and have a lot of fun with them. From the rack, he pulls out a black strapless dress cut entirely from Velcro, on which beaded floral motifs are stuck — and are thus detachable. “We have a video of us throwing the florals on,” he says, playing with the placement of the patches. “This felt like the instant Schiap classic.”
The morning of the show, backstage at the Pavillon Cambon Capucines, in Paris’s first arrondissement, Roseberry has traded his uniform boots for a pair of black running sneakers. He’s visibly nervous but also excited — there’s an element of the show he’s kept under wraps until now. Instead of remaining behind the scenes, he’ll sit center stage in the middle of the runway, wearing a hoodie and headphones, sketching the collection while the models parade around him. It’s a performance that portrays his creative journey to this point.
“When I was putting together my proposal in December, I was working in a small studio under the Manhattan Bridge with no heating, and I was sketching from sunrise until late into the night,” he explains. “It was this really solitary experience — this secret I had — and then in January, I went from this Chinatown space to present at the Place Vendôme. The show is the story of those moments: It starts from this place of realness and ends in a triumph of the imagination where something exists purely for the sake of beauty.”