For two years, I’ve been saying that I didn’t care about nostalgia. This season, though, it’s where it all started. I found myself wondering, again and again: What if you combined a little Manet; a little Lacroix; a little 1980s; a little 1880s; a little matador; a little space alien; a little Ingres; a little shimmer; a lot of color? Could I do it? And what would it look like?
The answer is this, my fourth couture collection, “The Matador”: A collection that honors Elsa’s vision but isn’t in thrall to it. If last season was about deconstruction, about pushing past the boundaries of what couture was, about trying to upend all its unspoken rules, about doing things we weren’t “supposed” to do, this season, I felt the freedom to make something fiercely, undeniably, unapologetically pretty—because sometimes you have to rebel against beauty in order to return to it.
It also represents a return to innocence, to the joy that drove me into fashion in the first place. A year ago, I felt like I was designing for the end of the world. But the world didn’t end. We’re still here. Fashion is still here. Couture is still here. And not only is it still here, but in a world increasingly reliant on the easily replicable and the digitally disseminated, its power—to stop you in your tracks—is greater than ever.
I wanted to honor the potential and power of the art form by returning to the fashion I loved in my youth. Blind nostalgia isn’t healthy: we can’t romanticize the past, especially when, for so many groups of people, the past wasn’t romantic at all. But the gift of fashion is its ability to allow us to pretend, and that is its promise as well; if we dream hard enough, maybe we can will that beautiful past into existence.
This collection was conceived in three parts. The first pays tribute to Schiaparelli jackets of the past: you see references to the Maison’s earlier, iconic shapes in the white denim matador-inspired cropped jacket embellished with embroidered barrel sleeves and black silk tassels, worn over a structured tulle skirt. You see it in the black wool crepe curved-sleeve one, heavily embroidered with dozens of shell-pink silk roses – a direct homage to the Jean Cocteau x Schiaparelli masterpiece from 1937. You see most of it in the multicolor peau de soie Look 1, a garment made of vintage Schiaparelli swatches we collaged together and recreated exactly. I think of them all as being in conversation with some of Elsa Schiaparelli’s most irreverent, imaginative creations from the late 30s, all recreated here by Lesage using many of the same techniques and materials.
The second part of the collection focuses on the body and bijoux, a key element of the house’s visual vocabulary. Here you have dialogs between hard and soft, machine and human, metal and fabric. Here is a delicate pair of human lungs, seemingly crafted from a web of capillaries dipped in gold, worn atop severe black crepe gown. Here are moldings of the torso paired with a stole made of black shredded trash bags that are knit together in pure silk. Also bijoux becomes embroidery: the nose, the stomach, endless pairs of lips and ceramic eyes, hand-patinaed in the house’s signature Giacometti-inspired gold, and set in rococo frames. Here are the accessories: a minaudiere shaped like a giant pair of lips; a belt clasp with a cast hand that seems to hug the wearer across her waist.
Finally, there’s a celebration of color, a black stretch velvet dress, perfectly fitted, with a gigantic shocking-pink silk faille rose at its center; a silk velvet dress with soft, semi-conical breasts and, in the back, a crisp fan of Renaissance-blue peau de soie. Everything here feels both over-the-top and intentional: the colors—cornflower blues, salmony pinks, terracotta oranges—are as flamboyant and joyous as the shapes themselves.
It is unapologetically emotional, this collection, as giddy as falling in love. It is also a tribute to romance, to excess, to dreams, because really, is there anything more urgent today than dreaming big? Than dreaming of a better world? Of grabbing every piece of beauty with both hands?
Here’s what I want: No more cookie-cutter fashion. No more pieces that look like they could have been made by anyone. No more cynicism. No more irony. No more timidity. No more coolness. Give me more beauty, more earnestness, more romance, more effort. I hope this collection reminds everyone who encounters it of the sheer delight that fashion can bring us in hard times, and with it, the promise of more joy when the clouds part. Give me more fashion. Give me more hope.
Look 1:Fitted Basque jacket with exaggerated arms in various Mikado silks, satin, and faille weaves. Embroidery techniques are inspired by the Schiaparelli archives and include traditional volute in gold strass, gold pearls, rhinestones, lurex thread, multicolored thread embroidery in ochre silk faille, embroidered with gold thread spindle stretch lambskin in bi-colored lamé and black. Dome-shaped hat in vucum metalized perspex with quilted Shocking Pink satin lining. Black satin pumps with silk faille bows adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 2:Midi sheath dress in wool crepe, molded on an artisanal metal structure with fabric gazelle horns extending from the shoulders. Embroidered with filigree lamé thread, gold pearls, gold cut beads, handmade gold pompoms, and Swarovski rhinestones, gold pearls and strass. Two trompe l’oeil nipple buttons in gilded brass. A galette hat, made from black wool crepe, is embroidered with pearls and gold Swarovski crystals. The rim is decorated with black tulle and is worn with a black satin ribbon tied around the chin. Black satin mules are adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 3:A midi fuseau dress in black wool crepe with a two-tone drape in orange silk and pink silk taffeta. The pink silk portion is embroidered with silk satin stitch, gold beads, gold lurex cords, green and red strass, and teeth resin motif. The orange portion is embroidered with gold lurex thread and lamé work, multicolored strass, and gold cords. Black satin pumps with silk faille bows are adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 4:Fitted zipped jacket with exaggerated sleeves made from vintage denim jeans are embroidered with gold strass and thread, and rhinestones. Designs take shape in anatomical elements in resin, including nipples, eyes, mouths, and breasts. Embroidery includes three-dimensional padded flowers using lamé work, gold bulges, strass and beads. Spiral-cut breasts are made from gold lambskin. Leather stirrups in black stretch lambskin. A lip clutch with a removable chain is made from gilded brass with the interior in Shocking Pink. Black satin pumps with silk faille bows are adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 5:Jumpsuit dress in blue silk skin with extreme volume. Black silk velvet bustier adorned with two rosette breast flowers in black faille. An earring in textured gilded brass in the shape of a dove is adorned with Swarovski crystal rhinestones and white pastel beads. A gilded brass earring in the shape of a large ear is lined in a row of white plastic beads and a row of Swarovski crystal rhinestones.
Look 6:Mini dress in wool crepe with a black duchess satin insert that is embroidered in pink silk taffeta, referencing embroidery from the Schiaparelli archives, specifically seen on an art-deco evening coat from 1937. A turban in black felt and patent leather, worn around the head and over the ears, mimics a moving scarf with two pieces of upturned fabric. Black satin pumps with silk faille bows are adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 7:Dress in black wool crepe with a yellow silk belt at the waist, topped with an exaggerated bubbled top in silver metallic eel. Gilded brass earrings in the shape of eyes with a large white plastic pearl as the pupil. Attached is a nose adorned with a septum piercing from which hangs a drop-shaped tassel with a white plastic bead. Black satin mules adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 8:Long-sleeved midi dress in stretch black velvet with a bateau neckline. Oversized flower petals in pink silk faille for a “pregnant women” trompe l’oeil effect. Dangling earrings in gilded and silver brass in the shape of a small flower and a large flower with suspended small black and white pearls. Black satin pumps with silk faille bows are adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 9:Bustier dress in wool crepe molded on an artisanal metal structure with Belier horns in black silk satin that are tied and draped in the middle front. Gilded brass earrings are in the shape of breasts with edges covered in Swarovski crystal rhinestones. Nipples are pierced with a ring with a small white plastic pearl. Thigh-high platform boots in black stretch lambskin embroidered with pearls and gold Swarovski crystals and printed resin eyes and adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 10:Coat in mirrored silver calfskin. The waist is enhanced by a belt with a trompe l’oeil hand jewelry buckle, one in gold metal and the other in silver metal. The bag, in silvery smooth calfskin, is embroidered with pearl and gold Swarovski crystals. The bag closes with a toggle clasp in the shape of a gilded brass padlock. Thigh-high boots in white stretch lambskin with a silver swirl platform are adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 11:Long-sleeved dress in wool crepe with a low-cut neckline, revealing a gilded brass necklace in the shape of trompe l’oeil lungs, which is adorned with rhinestones.
Look 12:Fitted jacket with a deep neckline in the shape of two doves. Embroidered with gold and silver strass, rhinestones, and lurex thread. Designs take shape in trompe l’oeil anatomical elements in gold resin and crystal, such as teeth, shoulder blades, and lower back. Embroidery materials include Swarovski strass, vintage chandelier acrylic crystals, Swarovski mirrors strass, silver blade, silver beads and strass, gold bugles and beads, and gold shadow Swarovski crystals. Black stretch lambskin pants. A flat hat, made from gold vinyl, is embroidered with pearls and gold Swarovski crystals and is secured with a cord tied around the chin. Thigh-high boots in black stretch lambskin with a golden swirl platform are adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 13:Strapless dress in wool crepe with a plunging heart-shaped neckline. Entirely lined with a pleated silk lurex made by hand for an exaggerated bubbled volume effect that redefines the dimensions of the silhouette. Black satin mules adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 14:Short fitted coat in vintage leather patchwork with sleeves with extreme volume. The coat is closed with an offset zip on the right side, while the front is adorned with trompe l’oeil gilded brass jewel buttons in anatomical elements. Black satin mules adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 15:Bustier jewelry in epoxy gold and silver metal in shapes of body parts and animals to form a cross. Denim pants are embroidered with gold strass and gold thread while eyes are in resin. A jewel bag in gilded brass takes the form of a flower with a mouth in the middle. Black lamb d’orsay pumps adorned with gold toes bearing silver nails.
Look 16:Mini dress in black silk chiffon with hangs by the stem of a gilded metal rod in the shape of a flower. Black satin mules adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 17:Mini dress in wool crepe and black silk satin with defined shoulders. The waist is enhanced by a calfskin belt with a trompe l’oeil abdominal jewel in silver mirror resin, embroidered with lamé work, golden shadow Swarovksi crystals, gold beads and bulges. Gilded brass earrings in the shape of a cross are formed by three teeth adorned with silver drops. A fourth tooth holds a silver nose with a piercing with a silver drop attached. Thigh-high boots in black stretch lambskin with a golden swirl platform are adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 18:Short Basque jacket in black cotton corduroy with a tailored collar. The lapel of the collar is embroidered with pearls and gold thread in the form of the Maison’s iconic measuring tape and rosettes are realized in pearls and gold sequins. Black stretch lambskin shorts. A double-compartment bag in black lambskin and smooth calfskin with leather handles is embroidered with pearls and gold Swarovski crystals and is decorated with gilded brass and enameled metal to form a trompe l’oeil face. It is adorned with a nose and a jeweled mouth in gilded and enameled metal. Gilded brass earrings in the shape of an ear are pierced with Swarovski crystal hoops with a hanging large, round pearl at the lobe. Thigh-high boots in black stretch lambskin with a golden swirl platform are adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 19:Cape in knit black vinyl ribbon fringe is worn with a silver resin bustier in the trompe l’oeil shape of a bust. Black stretch lambskin pants. Gilded brass earrings in the shape of a cross are formed by three teeth adorned with silver drops. A fourth tooth holds a silver nose with a piercing with a silver drop attached. Black satin mules adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 20:Long bubble dress in mauve taffeta with balloon sleeves. Worn with a shoulder bust in mirrored silver epoxy resin.
Look 21:Short coat in cotton velvet includes three-dimensional trompe l’oeil breasts embroidered with made-to-measure mirrors. Black satin pumps with silk faille bows are adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 22:Long sheath dress in black wool crepe with a deep V-shaped neckline in double-white silk satin, topped with an artisanal flower and a trompe l’oeil conical bolt. A bijoux bag in brass takes the shape of a two-tone gold and silver mouth with detachable chain.
Look 23:Long dress in black wool crepe with a trompe l’oeil mouth bustier in orange silk with a matching train. Dangling earrings in gilded brass are composed of the following elements, including an eye with an iris in turquoise resin, a nose with a piercing from which hangs two eyes in purple resin, and a mouth painted in red resin.
Look 24:Short zipped jacket in white denim is embroidered with hand-crafted fringes and black rope fishnet embroidery. Jet beads trace the three-dimensional trompe l’oeil breasts in black resin and fabric. Spinal cord embroidery is achieved with black glass beads and pompons. The jacket is imagined with a white tulle skirt with black edging. A sombrero-style hat, made from black Duchesse silk, is embroidered with pearls and black Swarovski crystals. The rim is decorated with small, hanging pompoms. Black satin mules adorned with golden toes bearing silver nails.
Look 25:Handcrafted gilded brass jewelry bustier in the shape of a bouquet of flowers. Long skirt draped in black silk faille with coordinating stole.
Look 26:Strapless wedding dress in ivory silk taffeta with exaggerated volume created from hand-crafted pleating. The bustier is embroidered with rhinestones from pieces of hand-cut glass mirrors that are painted for an antique effect. Gilded brass earrings in the shape of a cross are formed by three teeth adorned with silver drops. A fourth tooth holds a silver nose with a piercing with a silver drop attached.
All images courtesy of Schiaparelli