When normal people think of couture garments — the extravagant custom designs using all but extinct techniques, materials, and craftsmanship — they probably dream of pieces made with luxurious silks, supple leathers, crystals, and tulle. Daniel Roseberry thinks of your old flip phone.
Roseberry, the creative director of French fashion house Schiaparelli, showed the brand’s 2024 couture show in Paris on Monday. Under Roseberry, Schiaparelli shows have become a buzzy event among fashion fans — not just for the A-list front row filled with celebrity clients but also for the unforgettable wearable sculptures that are reposted endlessly in each show’s wake. (Even those less tapped into high fashion might recognize last year’s lion dress or Lady Gaga’s Hunger Games-esque ensemble worn to President Joe Biden’s inauguration.)
This season’s standout pieces from the Schiaparelli show are as symbolic as they are visually captivating: a life-size robot baby doll and a short cocktail dress, both completely covered in tech waste. Old phones, calculators, wires, motherboards, and CDs are used as embellishments the way sequins or beads might adorn a less ambitious garment. Roseberry said the toddler was a reference to the Alien movies and told WWD that he mined his memories for inspiration in an age of AI-generated remixing of his collections.
The baby — and the dress, nicknamed “The Mother” — are part human and part object, rising from the past and haunting the future. Assembled using materials from a pre-iPhone era, the pieces seem to warn of an inhuman robot-powered existence. At the same time, they recontextualize the tech waste of a simpler time.
“Now, the technology I grew up with is so antiquated that it’s almost as difficult to source as certain vintage fabrics and embellishments,” Roseberry wrote in the show notes.
Old junk becoming suddenly valuable and sought after is nothing new. In fact, Roseberry’s work comes at a time when the Y2K nostalgia hype cycle is in full swing. The trend isn’t just for fashion, either. Young people are buying old digital cameras, drawn to the Myspace digicam aesthetic they didn’t get to live through. In a truly delightful TikTok video, one user takes two iPod Nanos and clips them into her hair. There’s that other person who has a wall covered in old keyboards. A Schiaparelli dress that looks like an early 2000s I Spy page is just the trend’s natural progression.
Every time there’s a renewed interest in — and market for — something previously forgotten and discarded, I think about what we’ll be trying to claw back in 20 years’ time. Oftentimes, our rediscoveries have less to do with the item’s practical utility (see: iPod Nano hair clips) and more to do with a kind of cultural and social signaling. What will become the marker of 2020s tech new generations will be scouring resale sites for? Maybe this little orange box with clicky buttons and a cute name?
The photos on my family’s old Canon digital camera aren’t better than my iPhone, and in fact, it’s way more cumbersome to use. That didn’t stop me, though, from digging it out of storage and bringing it to a party recently, snapping pictures of friends and strangers. It wasn’t the same as being a kid taking selfies after school that were never posted to any type of feed. But it was fun to remember and to remind others that there was a time all of this was different, and that I was there.