Susannah Frankel Remembers Viktor & Rolf's Finest Couture Moments

23 April 2013 by

Viktor & Rolf Couture - Autumn Winter 2000

If Raf Simons’ first two collections for Christian Dior Haute Couture focused very much on the building of a modern wardrobe - albeit that a wardrobe aimed at women for whom budget is no issue - the announcement of Viktor & Rolf’s return to this most rarefied schedule may tell a different story. In the latter part of the 1990s the Dutch-born pairing over-turned the notion of couture’s function as a place for such privileged – and ultimately bourgeois - souls to invest in the most finely wrought fashion money can buy on its head entirely.

That’s not to say that their collections weren’t for wearing at that point in time. Even the designers themselves acknowledged that few other than Isabella Blow, say – an early adopter of clothing that mimicked the volumes of a mushroom cloud – were likely to be brave enough to step out in them, however. They were – and still are – some of the most extreme designs in fashion history.

Viktor & Rolf Couture - Autumn Winter 1998

Instead, the point of these collections was to make a point, to establish a theme and run with it and, perhaps above all, to provoke. There was the aforementioned Atomic Bomb season – it almost goes without saying that even its title is far from suggestive of the well-mannered frills and furbelows associated with French fashion. There was model Maggie Rizer, dressed on stage by the designers themselves in the entire Russian Doll collection – it was a minor miracle that she could even stand up by the end of the proceedings. And there was Bells: bells big and small, silver and gold, here there and everywhere, ringing prettily, just in case the couture audience hadn’t seen the clothing itself coming such was the density of the artificial fog they were surrounded by.

Viktor & Rolf Russian Doll - Autumn Winter 1999

At the turn of the millennium, Viktor & Rolf moved into ready-to-wear. Their couture collections might have established a buzz and created an identity for their label. In the end, though, the point by that point had become to sell clothes. Since that time, their shows have often still been led by ideas – from the extraordinary Black Hole, where models in head-to-toe black looks and with their hair and skin painted matt black to match, to the adorable Flowers, where girls who appeared straight out of the school disco danced in floral-print designs.

Viktor & Rolf - Spring Summer 2010

Still, more than a decade on and with money-spinning fragrance now carrying their business, Viktor & Rolf’s former incarnation as more purely conceptual has left a gap and, with that in mind, come July, the haute couture season looks set to be a more interesting place than ever to be.


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