Breaking Tradition

Breaking Tradition

In Aesthetica’s December/January 2017 issue, Regina Papachlimitzou discussed Viktor & Rolf’s bridging of art and fashion, chronicling the Dutch designers’ sumptuous success in creating wearable art that thumbed its nose at the commercial demands of fashion designing.

Although each fashion season brings the Dutch duo to radically transform the previous season’s conceptions, the brand’s signature technique is the incremental layering of fabric from lightweight to heavyweight volume by the end of the catwalk presentation. The closing moments of their Autumn/Winter 2015-16 show, for instance, saw the piling on of white cubist shapes to the extent that the last models had to walk blindly down the runway; the very last ones had to be guided down the aisle by the first less engulfed models.

This season’s Viktor & Rolf couture pieces offered a bridge with last year’s Oliver Twist-inspired baroque ragamuffin look, adding a stronger touch of glamour. Without forgoing the brand’s strong interest in art history, or its gradual piling-on display method, the show made the models’ corporeality reappear to a greater extent.

V&R’s creative use of upcycled vintage clothing was apparent more than ever. Pieced together from cocktail and evening-wear dresses from a variety of periods, the outfits were possessed of an almost startling variety of patchwork. Some of the looks were reminiscent of torn-paper collage. Assembled fragments were often rimmed with appliqué gold, inspired by Kintsugi – a notion derived from Japanese pottery in which beauty is salvaged from imperfection. The collection’s multicolour degrade palette of pastel-dimmed primary colours was enlivened by flashes of burgundy, raspberry and green.

The finale pieces broke out of the theme and variation pattern with massively puffy tulle dresses that blossomed to span the catwalk. The bulbous starched netting was affixed with shards of free-floating patchwork like multi-coloured ice breaking off the ice-shelf in Antarctica.

The location chosen for V&R’s most recent shows, Palais de Tokyo, is Paris’s most experimental contemporary art museum, one that dares to go where even the Musée Pompidou fears to tread. Its cutting-edge atmosphere of anything-is-possible is ideally suited to V&R’s most extravagant statements.

Erik Martiny

The 2017 spring/summer couture show of Viktor & Rolf was held during Paris Fashion Week, 25 January at Palais de Tokyo, Paris.

1. Viktor&Rolf, Performance of Sculptures haute couture collection, Autumn/Winter 2015-16.Photo: © Team Peter Stigter.