In the darkened show venue a round of applause suddenly burst out from the hushed audience waiting for the Viktor & Rolf haute couture show to start. As the lights came up a wide swath of red carpet had been laid out before the invitees. The clapping however was coming from above their heads. Where a line up of minimalistic musicians slowly moved the sound from adoration to a rhythmic back beat accompaniment to the show. This season designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren produced a collection that felt as much a commentary on the current state of couture dressing as it did a sartorial offering.
Each and every look that came down the red carpet was itself crafted from the same unwieldy material. The designer duo wrestled it surprisingly well into submission through bold knotting at the neckline, wrapping it and tucking it like a thick pile towel about the body or draping the bulky material into sculptural waves on ankle length designs.
The chosen medium proved to be quite a challenge for the designers. And they perhaps returned to the bow (their brand emblem) a tad too much. But when they shaved back on the carpeting, using it sparsely to created three dimensional abstract animal motifs punched though on the mesh netted carpet backing the concept really came to life. It’s this technique that should trickle down into the designers ready to wear work.
Stepping back and looking at this show from an observational vantage point to ponder the designers’ subtext casts this collection in a new spotlight. As one bed headed fresh faced model after the next took their turn on the crimson catwalk, wearing practical oxford footwear (it too covered in carpet), it was hard not to think about how couture now mainly exists in the bubble of red carpet event dressing. Where stars are paid to wear one of a kind gowns rather then buy them. A place where mussy hair and comfortable shoes are verboten and wearing anything as audacious as a Viktor & Rolf design would get almost anyone slaughtered in the fashion press. It’s a world that has been so sanitized by stylist and celebrities fearful of fashion police that bland beauty is now the order of the day.
Thankfully fashion still has a few rebellious spirits like Viktor & Rolf that continue to challenge the sartorial status quo. The dresses in this collection might never walk down a red carpet again. But no matter, the duo got their message out. And sometimes that’s enough.