HOW THE IMAGINATIVE DESIGN DUO AT VIKTOR&ROLF IS RECREATING COUTURE FOR AN ERA OF CHANGE

BY RHIANNA JONES

This year has had a colossal impact on the fashion industry, shuttering factories, bankrupting retailers, and canceling Fashion Week entirely, but the crises also fast tracked a long overdue makeover, forcing brands to create a new system for the changing world and times. How does fashion stay relevant in a survivalist moment ravaged by a pandemic, unemployment, and social unrest? Can fashion be a source of healing and inspiration during such tumultuous times? These were the exact questions that inspired Viktor& Rolf’s Autumn/Winter 2020 Couture Collection CHANGE, manifested in “three wardrobes for three different mindsets in these extraordinary times of change.” The design duo opted to forgo “business as usual,” and instead used the collection as a canvas of empathy and connection, presenting couture in the time of coronavirus.

The collection showcases three wardrobes of three outfits: a nightgown, dressing gown, and a coat, each representing our different states of mind in quarantine. “Anxiety” embodies sadness and anger in a black voluminous trench with socially distanced spikes and coordinating face mask. “Confusion” evokes our conflicting emotions, like a pink satin negligee covered in lace emoji mimicking our digitized connection and maelstrom of feelings. The last three ensembles radiate “Love,” with a magnificent sweeping white trench outlined in a hopeful halo of glitter hearts. In the designers’ words, “Change is necessary. The world around us is changing rapidly.

Whether apocalypse or new spiritual era, you will continue to be able to step into the singular universe of spectacular beauty, unexpected elegance, and spiritual glamour of Viktor & Rolf.”’

This notion of “spiritual glamour” is an undercurrent of Viktor & Rolf’s conceptual collections, as their designs depict fashion more as art and evocative creation than capitalist trend machines. Viktor Worsting and Rolf Snoeren met as design students in the Netherlands and began their collaboration upon graduating in 1992. The self-described “fashion artists” launched their first “installation” two years later in Paris’ esteemed Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, charting their longstanding ritual of presenting collections in galleries and museum exhibitions. Their campaigns are equally as thought provoking, from the inaugural 1996 “Viktor & Rolf on strike” to fictional fragrance launches, finding saucy ways to subvert the system. Their imaginative and innovative designs blur boundaries of garment and sculpture, fantasy and reality, thus creating truly wearable pieces of art.

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Deemed fashion’s playful provocateurs, the design duo continues to make waves in recent collections channeling popular culture into couture. Viktor & Rolf ’s Spring 2019 Couture Collection Fashion Statements nearly broke the internet, parading massive tulle dresses down the catwalk emblazoned with meme worthy text like “No Photos Please,” “I Am My Own Muse,” and “Trust Me I’m a Liar.” It was a chic commentary on the state of the social media world a playground of color, comparison, and content. Other messages like “Give a Damn,” “Less is More,” and the final “I Want a Better World,” offered food for thought on challenging the system and redesigning it as a platform of conversation, consciousness, and change.

But beyond the runway slogans and despite the extravagance of the designs, Viktor & Rolf truly espouses a “less is more” approach the most cardinal pillar of sustainability. In previous seasons, the designers already championed a more sustainable approach to fabric sourcing. For their A/W20 collection, they worked with local suppliers around Amsterdam and drew from their own fabric stock. Likewise, they released a capsule loungewear collection with CALIDA that is 100% compostable, made from sustainable TENCEL fabric and bears the Cradle to Cradle Certified label. The collection’s motto is “We want a better world,” again presenting a unifying slogan at the heart of the sustainable collection. Sure, fashion might not save us, but as the ethos of Viktor & Rolf’s collections reminds us, we all have a voice and a role in the system. Why not have something to say, and look good while doing it?

Viktor & Rolf
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