Ball Gown. Viktor & Rolf SS23 Couture

Viktor & Rolf seem to own the “meme” couture niche. It’s all about haute ideas that have a tendency to instantly go viral. This season, the Dutch designers focused on elevating – or rather, mocking – the concept of a hysterically saccharine ball gown. The first three dresses were classically-constructed, cupcake-shaped ball gowns, with corset waists embellished with crystals and bows and sugary pastel skirts. Then came a model in a beige corset, her peach dress bobbing along 10cm in front of her, held off her body with a hidden frame, and looking as though it were being ferried along by the mice in Cinderella. One model wore her ball gown upside down, her vision completely obscured by an inverted 3-D printed bodice and layers of tightly sewn powder-blue tulle. Others wore pretty pastel creations that were slightly askew, held by a frame on an angle just off their bodies, as though they were the result of a photoshopping error. A couple wore their debutante-style dresses perpendicular to their bodies. Somehow they kept their faces humorless as they processed through the gilded ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel in sparkling Louboutin kitten heels. The effect was giggle-inducing. “It’s an absurd take on the stereotype of a couture ballgown,” said Rolf Snoeren backstage. “Which we translated for the 21st century,” added Viktor Horsting. Snoeren continued: “It comes from a love of glamour [but] like our perfume, we want it to be beautiful and we also want it to have a clever idea.” There was a comment here about internet culture and how consuming visuals on our phones – snapping photographs and immediately being able to invert them, using filters to distort and enhance our silhouettes and bone structure – has warped our sense of reality. “There is a disconnect between what we see, and the physicality of the product,” said Snoeren. Then there is the internet’s context-less state, where one scroll can take you from a fashion show to a mass shooting. “The information that comes at us, going from making banana cake to so many people being killed in Ukraine,” said Snoeren. “It’s: What kind of world are we living in? It’s absurd,” Horsting concluded.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Be The Queen. Viktor & Rolf AW21 Couture

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren do couture that instantly becomes viral. That is certainly the case with their latest Viktor & Rolf collection, which at first glance, might seem to tread familiar ground, with coat shapes resembling those from their Russian doll collection for autumn 1999, and slogan sashes from spring 2019. The pair carried over their interest in jeweled embellishments here, though in different dimensions and styles; and in keeping with their dedication to reducing waste, many of the pieces are patchworked—as are the concepts behind the garments. As Snoeren put it, “there’s all kinds of elements from all different worlds.” The first theme that comes across is a royal one, and, with continuing buzz around The Crown and the Oprah interview, it’s quite topical. What the designers couldn’t have known is that Young Royals mania would start to heat up at almost the exact time they presented their collection. Many tropes are referenced in the lineup, ranging from fairy tales to cartoons. There are medieval-style brocades and an “ermine” cape. A raffia “fur” is a fantastic take on high/low. Tiaras and crowns of plastic are a clue that everything is not what it seems, which is confirmed, without subtlety, with the queen-themed sashes. “We wanted everything to be bigger than life,” noted Horsting. “It’s like a play on queens or royals. We wanted to be uplifting and joyful and – fun is not the right word – but colorful, sparkling, positive. You are your own creation.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.