Designer

VIKTOR AND ROLF MAKE A STATEMENT

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For their S/S19 Couture collection, Viktor and Rolf took a characteristically artistic approach to fashion.

In 2015 the brand made the controversial decision to halt their ready to wear collections leaving their focus solely on the artistic and the romantic; couture and bridal. The choice to stop their ready to wear collections, told audiences that their voyages into fashion come from a place of passion, without financial motive. This is not to say that the brand doesn’t make a huge turnover, the figures linked to their best selling fragrance line are staggering.

Creative directors,  Horsting and Snoeren, possess a penchant for creating a spectacle which is hard to resist and this collection showed the best of their talents. It showcased beautifully constructed dresses imbued with a witty artistic sensibility.

The first look of the collection was a romantic tulle gown, in a purple to green ombre, with the words ‘NO PHOTOS PLEASE’ emblazoned upon the front. The fashion crowd, rule breakers that they are, snapped away.

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Although the designers maintained a habitual silence regarding the symbolism of the collection, it was impossible not to infer some sense of cultural comment. Some of the so called ‘meme dresses’ may well have been meaningless, yet others seemed to apply so aptly to the current zeitgeist.  

An angelic white gown with a neon trim implored the viewer to ‘give a damn’, a teal number with a pink exclamation read ‘I am my own muse’; and the final look of the collection was a gigantic, funereal, black dress with a sun motif, which featured the the words, ‘I want a better world’. It seemed to be a gown to mourn a world that is slowly slipping away.  

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Some, whilst apolitical, exuded a witty and camp humour. One gown featured a love heart candy with the words ‘go fuck yourself’, whilst a different, almost garishly ostentatious cerise gown, held the slogan ‘less is more’, and one model sported a lilac gown with the oh-so-relevant mantra of ‘sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to come’. 

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It was also a cleverly commercial collection. In the modern industry, Haute Couture is mostly a marketing tool. It is estimated that there are only around 4,000 couture customers in the world, and even though an evening gown can cost several hundred thousand pounds, the hundreds of hours and work and costs of putting on a runway show mean that Haute Couture costs designers a lot more than it makes them. 

However, the artistic credibility that Haute couture provides acts as a form of advertising, to sell the more accessible items brands stock. In the case of Viktor and Rolf, this advertisement works to sell truckloads of the pair’s famous Flowerbomb fragrance.  

They have also released quasi-couture tulle dresses on their website that adhere to the romantic aesthetic of the collection, but can be attained for a fraction of the price. A $200 tulle t-shirt exclaiming ’NO’ is now available on their website, a more wearable version of the mammoth tulle dress exclaiming the same negation in the couture collection.  

“All these statements that are so obvious or easy — there’s a lot of banality on Instagram and social media in general — are counterbalanced with this over-the-top, shimmery, romantic feeling,” Rolf Snoeren told WWD. And that’s the genius of the collection; it appropriates the vapid utterances that we see on instagram every day, and pairs them with elegance and romanticism of the purest form. It takes what social media gives us, beautifies it, and feeds it back through the same machine. 

The question, ‘is fashion art?’, is one that preoccupies the minds of designers and critics alike. Whichever side of the divide you land on, Viktor and Rolf seem intent on habitually reminding us that it can be.  

Words by Kieran Ahuja

Edited by Holly Harper

Holly and Eleanor are your fashion editors

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