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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

#SuzyCouture: Viktor & Rolf - Wearable Art?

The Dutch duo’s couture season offering is increasingly conceptual

28 Января 2016


There are no more faithful followers of fashion as art than the duo behind Viktor & Rolf. For A/W 2015 couture season, the audience was intrigued and surprised by a concept of folding fashion, where outfits burst from picture frames that were then hung on the wall. This season Rolf Snoeren and Viktor Horsting tried a new idea that was awkward to imagine as everyday wear.

One of the folded frame looks that Viktor & Rolf created for A/W 2015 haute couture season
One of the folded frame looks that Viktor & Rolf created for A/W 2015 haute couture season

Or indeed any day wear. Influenced by cubism and studies of form, the designers created clothing sculpture. At least, that is how the show notes read. On the runway, it looked like a surfeit of white piqué fabric turned into stiff dresses, sometimes unwieldy, and almost always moulded into a profile of a face, mouth or eye. There was a hint of Picasso in all this — a brave challenge to take on.

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But as an artistic exercise, some of these creations were wondrous. How clever to make these modular dresses seem as if sculpted from whipped cream. The official description was “technical piqué polo dress tunic”, which gives a flavour of the effect. My problem with Victor & Rolf’s work is that it is so conceptual.

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Whether the spray of money that comes from the duo’s highly successful fragrances allows them to embrace not-so-wearable art, it is even more complicated to see it as couture. Although haute couture has been linked to experimentation for some time, is it high fashion if you cannot wear it as a normal piece of clothing?

Perhaps these graphic creations can break up into, say, a skirt that you could wear with a sweater, rather than sculpted frills and waves leaving a small peep hole to the face. But there is such a sense of déjà vu in this fashion mindset. I think back to the way that Yves Saint Laurent adapted the visuals of artist Piet Mondrian as a dress. That was 50 years ago. And the only real difference is that back then you could wear the dress. Now, these sculpted creations wear you.

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