Fur has long been known for ruffling the feathers of fashion critics. But when couture week kicked off in Paris on Monday, it was a cluster of fake animal heads that had people rushing to embrace it.
Schiaparelli Creative Director Daniel Roseberry sent supermodels down the runway in designs adorned with man-made taxidermy inspired by the three beasts in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno. A snow leopard hissed from the bust of Shalom Harlow’s robes. A lion’s face popped off the front of Irina Shayk’s black velvet dress. A wolf’s head sat on the shoulder of Naomi Campbell’s faux fur coat. Kylie Jenner, who sat front row at the show, also wore a lion’s head pinned to her dress. Through a representative, Ms. Jenner declined to comment.
The dresses quickly became a topic of discussion on social media. Critics have argued that the heads, real or fake, glamorized big game hunting as a sport and encouraged violence against animals – even if Schiaparelli’s intention was the opposite. Supporters, including non-profit animal rights organization PETA, praised the craftsmanship and party spirit of the dresses.
The show takes place amid a shift in the fashion industry. Many luxury brands have scaled back the use of fur and exotic skins, heeding criticism from animal rights activists and environmental activists. Last year Dolce & Gabbana announced it was phasing out the use of fur, joining fashion houses Prada, Chanel and Gucci – whose parent company Kering announced a blanket ban on animal fur for 2021.
Naomi Campbell wore a wolf’s head down the runway.
Photo: Courtesy of Schiaparelli
When LVMH acquired a stake in her brand in 2019, Stella McCartney, who uses no fur or leather in her designs, took on a special advisory role with the luxury conglomerate to help guide its sustainability practices. Other brands at LVMH, including Louis Vuitton and Fendi, still sell fur, but lawmakers in several states are trying to curb the sale of clothing made from animal products. California becomes the first state to ban the sale of furs starting this year.
At Schiaparelli, whose founder Elsa Schiaparelli had a penchant for the surreal, Mr. Roseberry attempted to create the illusion of fur. “No animals were harmed in the creation of this look,” the brand wrote in Instagram posts featuring designs from the show.
Some observers still saw the show as a provocation. Commenting on an Instagram post by Schiaparelli, supermodel and activist Christie Brinkley wrote, “This is a huge FAUX ‘PAW’.” Funny. Awkward.”
Fashion designer and sustainability activist Céline Semaan tweeted, “The craftsmanship of making taxidermy while honoring the killing of trophies at a time when every single one of these animals is on the brink of extinction is obscene.”
But non-profit animal rights group PETA, once known for throwing red paint at fur-clad fashion week-goers, welcomed the move.
“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 could make a statement against trophy hunting,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in a statement.
The show’s taxidermy was inspired by the three beasts in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno.
Photo: Courtesy of Schiaparelli
Fashion circles are split on their heads. Fashion journalist Suzy Menkes wrote on Instagram that she admired the collection and felt that Mr. Roseberry had been thoughtful about his portrayal of wild animals. “I don’t think there was anything intentionally violent or angry on the show,” she wrote. Amy Odell, who writes Back Row newsletter, called the heads a gimmick in her most recent writing, writing that Mr. Roseberry’s other looks “were overshadowed by three that sported huge, distracting animal heads.”
The House of Schiaparelli commissioned the pieces from artist Ami Zarug and his company Animal Replicas, which uses foam, resin and other artificial materials to create lifelike busts. “Our work is based on animal admiration,” said Mr. Zarug, adding that he is a vegetarian.
Referring to naysayers who felt the busts spurred the hunt, he said, “The criticism is actually flattering to us as our creation seems almost alive.” Busts are priced at between 6,000 on Animal Replicas’ website and $19,000 listed.
Divya Anantharaman, the Brooklyn-based founder of Gotham Taxidermy, said that while some aspects of the history of big game taxidermy are “extremely problematic,” Animal Replicas “is so cool because you get to experience the beauty of this lion or tiger — this one beautiful, charismatic megafauna – with these artificial materials.”
Write to Lane Florsheim at [email protected]
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