In 1913, couturier Paul Poiret confidently stated, “I am an artist, not a dressmaker.” On the other side of the conversation, revered contemporary designer Miuccia Prada swiftly denounces the idea, “Dress designing is creative, but it is not an art.” These are but miniscule slices of the debate that has raged for a century over the concept of fashion as art, one that Viktor & Rolf have often found themselves a part of. Part runway show and part gallery exhibit, the duo’s Fall 2015 Couture presentation seemed to answer the question once and for all.
Logic-defying “dresses” (can they even be called that?) held their unusual, angular shapes aloft as models strode the runway in front of a bare white wall. Meanwhile, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren stood in the background awaiting the moment of transformation. As models walked back to the wall, the designers revealed a sleight of hand as they carefully removed the elaborately engineered garments and placed them on the wall. Once hanging, it became clear that they were literal works of art.
While many designers have addressed fashion as art indirectly, Horsting and Snoeren faced the issue with confidence. Denim peasant blouses accompanied many of the looks and resembled the type of casual outfit a painter might wear while contemplating the muse in the room. Viktor & Rolf’s deconstructed art pieces were made of canvas and edged with gilded frames. When collapsed on the body, they made abstracted images depicting Renaissance, modernist, and surrealist art. When hung on the wall, they were completed works. It was utterly ingenious, and completely unwearable. This isn’t the first time the designers have sacrificed pragmatism for the sake of art. This show instantly reminded us of their insane Fall/Winter 2007 collection when they sent the models down the runway with scaffolding, lights, and audio systems attached to their bodies, which was meant to convey each distinct look as a fashion show in itself. Over eight years later, they are still restlessly exploring the outer limits of fashion, while simultaneously provoking conversation concerning a centuries-old debate.
Photos: Courtesy of Imaxtree