“Couture is out biggest love,” Rolf Snoeren says. “It’s where we enjoy fashion the most.”
Snoeren, one half of Viktor & Rolf is in town with Viktor Horsting to launch Viktor & Rolf Fashion Artists at the NGV. Celebrating 24 years of their work, the exhibition provides a look at the psychology behind some of fashion’s greatest couture moments. And by the looks of things, an irreverent take on some serious issues and a love of unpacking the quirky, are behind much of their fashion philosophy.
“Early on, in the first five years, we drifted away from fashion and more towards art. What we were doing was more conceptual, so in order to get back into fashion we decided that haute couture was where we needed to be. Couture for us is like a laboratory, where we can put clothes in content,” Viktor says.
One of the reasons an exhibition like this is important is so we the viewer have space where we can pause to appreciate their ideas. A gallery context like the one on now in Melbourne, for example, helps us understand the thinking behind their red carpet dresses; which are couture gowns made out of actual red carpet. In a photograph, they look like beautiful dresses, but it’s not until you get up close and properly eyeball it that you realise you’re looking at carpet and not carpet-like cloth and, more importantly, understand that Viktor and Rolf were inspired to create this collection as a reaction to the spectacle of celebrities, paid to wear couture, ubiquitously placed on red carpets at hyper-promoted glamorous ceremonies.
Le Parfum is another example of their cerebral take on the fashion and beauty industries, with an installation of perfume bottles that can’t be opened. This came in 1997, long before their now eponymous ‘Flower Bomb’ fragrance was born, showing an early inclination towards the what and why behind the choices we make when buying beauty products and clothes.
This exhibition is on at the National Gallery of Victoria until Feb 26th, and is well worth a look if you are interested in the stories behind what we see on the catwalk.