Marco Zanini didn't hold back with his second Haute Couture collection for Schiaparelli. At the time, his January debut seemed plenty shocking; looking back, it was just a warm-up. "Last season I felt really the fright," he said. "I was so afraid about touching the legacy, because camp is a trap that is always around the corner with Schiaparelli. But I realized if I wanted to find the look, I cannot avoid going there, so why don't I go there full-on?"
Indeed, a floor-sweeping coral pink mohair coat with giant ES initials in royal blue on the chest and attention-grabbing, pronounced shoulders (a bold silhouette it shared with other outerwear in the collection) will read as too literal for some tastes, too steeped in the couturier's 1930s milieu. Schiaparelli, as it exists today, is not the house for those clients. There are others, though, who will thrill to the developments at this Diego Della Valle-owned label. Once upon a time those women might have shopped at Christian Lacroix. Eccentricity has gone mostly missing from couture since Lacroix shuttered his business. A shame. Shouldn't couture, most of all, be a stage for flamboyance and provocation? Zanini is convinced of it.
Thus you had today's animal prints: nesting pigeons whose eyes were embroidered in sequins on high-waisted trousers, poodles on a simple pleated skirt, and vibrant purple "Central Park" squirrels and rats on a 1930s gown—street creatures all, made fabulous despite their mundanity. And thus you had surreal moments like the bleeding heart picked out in Lesage embroidery on a black dress. Surrealism was off-limits for Zanini last season, so essential was it to Schiap's oeuvre. Call it a missed opportunity that he's now open to embrace. Shocking pink, also off the table in January, looked fairly glorious here on a silk velvet dress with three-dimensional flowers at the shoulder. Elsewhere, Elsa's beloved monkey fur was reproduced with a modern touch in glycerine-treated ostrich feathers on a chic bolero. Also great: another bolero in Christmas tree tinsel fringe. Nearly every look was accompanied by a Stephen Jones chapeau, from a Simone de Beauvoir hand-knit turban to a Lesage-embroidered children's party hat.
"Schiaparelli is so vivid as an image in your mind," Zanini said. "As a designer you really need to confront the dragon and go there." He shouldn't be afraid to push further next season.