Viktor & Rolf

Label of the Dutch fashion designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, both born in 1969 in the southern Netherlands, the same Holland that produced so many “subversive” cultural movements that contributed to the creative expressions of the present day. For them, too, it is possible to speak of an alliance between couture and conceptual art. The pair met while they were still students in the fashion section of the Academy of Arnhem, where they graduated in 1992. The following year, they created their first collection, Viktor & Rolf, due to a “decision that was artistic, not practical,” and they won the competition of the Festival International Créateurs d’Hyères. From then on, they have taken prize after prize in a series of creations that rejects all compromises with commercial reality. In contrast with many of their “official” colleagues, they prefer to be present, with the outfits-qua-installations (“fashion must be able to be everything except useful,” the duo sings out in unison, criticized as being anti-feminists and anti-modern), in galleries of art and only later in runway presentations. After a first attempt in France, with the Fall-Winter 1998-1999 collection, based on overcoats and outfits made out of genuine vintage Pucci‘s and Dior‘s, they continued to debut in Paris with their couture collection for Summer 1999. The model Maggie Rizer was covered by them, in a happening that was ten outfits long, with overlapping creations, one worn over the other, increasingly embroidered and bulky, until the model was wearing seventy kilos of clothing and embroideries for a womanly figure that was no longer even slightly human: only a dream, an icon, a secularly chic Madonna. Much discussed for their vision of clothing so old-fashioned that it is transgressive and avant-garde, they are beloved by magazines like Visionaire. They are working on a sort of meta-fashion: a fashion that is that reflects itself and its systems of communications and allure. On the one hand, the duo operates with painstaking care of outfits that are virtually sculptures with proportions that are all wrong (necks that are “too high,” accumulations of ornaments with necklaces made of Christmas decorations, abnormal dresses that prevent movement, exaggeratedly voluminous sleeves, excessive skirts, and jabots afflicted with giantism) but executed with absolutely exquisite tailoring. On the other hand, they work on the example of Duchamp and his “ready mades,” creating in 1996 a “virtual” perfume that only exists as an (empty) bottle, which is in turn a parody of the bottle of the legendary Chanel N. 5. They sold hundreds. The result? A genuine prêt-à-porter collection for Summer 2000, presented in New York, which destabilized the American Dream with tailored suits and jackets in exuberant stars-and-stripes prints; the commission for the uniforms of the staff of the Central Museum of Utrecht (soberly made of hand-stitched denim); and the definitive consecration in Paris of their couture line, which was included on the official calendar. In January 2003, the men’s line was launched.
2003, October. The Dutch duo celebrates its first ten years of activity in Paris, with an exhibition entitled Viktor&Rolf par Viktor&Rolf, which reviews all their stylistic innovations in the field of high fashion, where they started, all the way down to their latest prêt-à-porter collection. With the exhibition for the tenth anniversary show, the presences in the museums rise to more than thirty, almost a record for young designers.
2004, October. On the occasion of the spectacular runway presentation for the Spring/Summer 2005 collection, the first perfume, Flowerbomb, produced by Oréal, is introduced, with a bottle that is a cross between a giant gem and a grenade. On the runway, two types of women: the first, in total black, wearing motorcycle helmets, the second, after the coup-de-theatre, completely dressed in ribbons in all shades of pink.
2005, April. In Milan, their first single-label boutique is inaugurated. Seventy square meters with upside-down interiors, so that you walk on the ceiling and the fireplace, throw rugs, and chairs are on the ceiling and the lamps are hanging upwards from the ceiling on the floor.