‘No animals were harmed’: Kylie Jenner’s ultra-realistic lion head sparks uproar at Paris fashion week

Paris fashion week began with a roar when Kylie Jenner arrived at the first show of the season wearing a lifelike lion’s head on her shoulder.

The Schiaparelli gown, which also appeared on the runway, was made of “foam, wool and silk faux fur, and hand painted to look as life like as possible”, the brand said on Instagram.

To make things abundantly clear, the brand added, in all caps: “NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN MAKING THIS LOOK.”

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But choosing the controversial youngest scion of the Kardashian-Jenner clan to debut a gown that is open to interpretation may have been a misstep for the French fashion house.

If anyone would wear a real lion’s head, commenters on social media reasoned, it would be Jenner. Several Twitter users appeared to mistake the head for a real piece of taxidermy.

Russian model Irina Shayk walks the runway in the lion dress at the Schiaparelli show.
Russian model Irina Shayk walks the runway in the lion dress. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Some of the backlash was more nuanced. One comment on Schiaperelli’s Instagram post, which has attracted more than 600 likes, said: “We have to stop showing animals as luxury ‘products’. They may be made from foam but these are endangered species that have historically been killed for their pelts to be turned into garments.”

The fashion house, which has deep ties to the surrealist art movement, was originally established in 1927. Like many luxury fashion brands at the time, the house, under the direction of its founder Elsa Schiaparelli, used exotic furs and animal skins in its original heyday. While outsized animal motifs remained when the brand was revived by Tod’s Group in 2012, the house has subsequently eschewed real fur.

Not all animal rights activists were disturbed by the lion, with the Peta president Ingrid Newkirk praising the look. She told TMZ that the brand’s collection of three-dimensional animal heads was “fabulously innovative” and “may be a statement against trophy hunting, in which lion families are torn apart to satisfy human egotism”.

Naomi Campbell models a black wolf head dress on the Schiaparelli runway.
More faux fur: Naomi Campbell models a black wolf head dress on the Schiaparelli runway. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Jenner’s look was one of a series of faux fur garments, designed by Daniel Roseberry. The collection also included a black wolf’s head, modelled by Naomi Campbell, and a strapless snow leopard gown, with an equally realistic head snarling from the bodice.

Outside the show at the Petit Palais, the musician Doja Cat also turned heads (the human ones). Her entire face and body was painted red and studded with 30,000 Swarovski crystals. The intricate visual effects makeup, dubbed “Doja’s inferno” by Pat McGrath, the makeup artist who created it, took more than five hours to apply.

Doja Cat’s look was a nod to Roseberry’s collection, which was inspired by Dante’s nine circles of hell.

Seeing red: Doja Cat during Paris fashion week.
Seeing red: Doja Cat during Paris fashion week. Photograph: Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

In the show notes, Roseberry wrote: “What appealed to me in the ‘Inferno’ wasn’t just the theatrics of Dante’s creation – it was how perfect a metaphor it provided for the torment that every artist or creative person experiences when we sit before the screen or the sketchpad.”

The Inferno theme may have been a nod to the designer’s process, but it could have equally applied to the collection’s reception.