Menswear Monday: Viktor & Rolf (xo)


It’s Monday, so you know that besides the twin joys of more coffee/sleep, I’ve got Menswear running through my tired, tired mind! This week’s spotlight shines on another kind of twinly joy: Rolf Snoeren and Viktor Horsting, the dynamic Dutch duo behind Viktor & Rolf. Born in 1969 in Amsterdam (to separate sets of parents), they met while studying fashion at the famed Academy of the Arts in Arnhem, graduating in 1992 and winning the prestigious Festival d’Hyeres prize in 1993. The pair then moved to Paris, apprenticing at Martin Margiela and Jean Collona while making clothes (ball-gowns made of old shirts!) in their (presumably shabby-chic) apartment. Frustrated, one year they made nothing, plastering posters that announced ‘Viktor & Rolf On Strike!’ all around Paris. In 1996, they launched a fake fragrance, Le Parfum, 250 bottles of unscented perfume, meant to stay closed and cause a sensation. With a flair for the theatric, Viktor & Rolf gradually become darlings of the art world, presenting their wares in galleries and museums around the globe but never breaking into fashion. So during 1998’s Paris Fashion Week, the boys staged an unauthorized, underground show meant to attract the attention of the press, marking their first foray into couture, and showing their now signature over-sized collars and sculptural draping.


Thus, their reputation for making their runways shows total spectacles was born. Their 1999 show featured one model on a rotating turntable, with Viktor & Rolf adding an additional outfit during each rotation. 2000 saw the birth of their ready-to-wear line, giving the boys additional platforms for their on-stage antics. A 15 minute Tori Amos performance, models all made up to look like Tilda Swinton, and the designers themselves learning to tap-dance in order to close an “Old Glamour” show top my list. With the 2005 advent of their brilliant men’s line Monsieur, the pair took to modeling most of the designs themselves. In real life, the Viktor & Rolf have a habit of dressing identically in an effort to present “one voice,” which seems gimickly until you understand the art-fueled world they’re coming from and trying to present. Rolf has been quoted as saying, “For us, fashion is an antidote to reality.” Sounds good to me.



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