By Alissa Thomas

30 Years On, Viktor&Rolf are Still the Kings of Couture

Celebrating their milestone, the duo delivered some of their most iconic looks in an unexpected swim-meets-mannequin collection
PARIS, FRANCE – JULY 05: A model walks the runway during the Viktor & Rolf Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023/2024 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on July 05, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pierre Suu/Getty Images)

This week, in the lead up to their 30th anniversary collection, Viktor&Rolf conducted a question-and-answer session on social media. They fielded career advice for new starters (“don’t panic”), queries on their successful partnership (“We’ve been best friends 30 years”) and whether they have any dreams yet to fulfil (“being creative directors at Chanel would be nice!”). Another asked what their greatest compliment had been to date. They responded by posting the fabulous archival photograph by Jason Schmidt of Tilda Swinton walking through Piccadilly Circus in 2010 wearing the duvet dress from their 2005 collection. They then said Swinton had once praised the pair after a show with “and to imagine that this didn’t exist in the world 15 minutes ago.”

Such is the power and privilege of a creative career. To have the ability to conceive something completely original and realise it no matter how wild or provocative it might be. In this sense, Viktor&Rolf have been the ultimate originals for three decades, weaponising couture with an unwavering knack for tempting us out of our average normal and into their supernormal.

Today, they delivered a retrospective in a most V&R fashion, an avant-garde dollhouse of swim and mannequin corsetry tailored to fit their nuanced history. Each look embellished with familiar detail – the ‘NO’ and ‘Dream On’ slogans refreshed from their Fall 2008 collection, the Bram Stroker high shoulders from Spring 2018 and 2022, even the floating silhouette trompe l’œil from earlier this year revised as a maillot – then funnelled into a cohesive collection.

It’s facetiously apt that the pair choose to showcase anything other than gowns or evening ensembles for this collection, and it worked. The lithe Flashdance story with its high-cut hip lines and gym aesthetic and the boudoir burlesque creations fastened with bulbous ribbons and long, organ-folded bowers are likely to be the unlikely showstoppers for our post modern red carpets.

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren have long been conversation makers when it comes to couture. They fuel heated discourse between lovers of costume fashion fantasy and those who think they’re the purveyors of “fashion’s gone mad” ideology. This collection, however, is possibly one of their more wearable. An invitation for our bodysuit era to welcome more fabulously evocative options, perhaps. The colourful rosette bustiers, the pretty-bow two-pieces and the Chantilly lace folds had a graceful utility, however, the more extreme trompes that featured headless black-suited mannequins (that all had a distinct likeness to the designers’ own tuxedo-ed appearance) sewn ominously to the sides and backs of several of the looks reminded us where we were.

It’s a treat to witness the supreme antagonistic design the Dutch pair devise each season, and with Jeremy Scott no longer at Moschino, the label is one of the few left to offer a healthy dash of satire. Most notably, this season they presented a canary yellow leotard with a typographic ‘I Wish You Well’ sculpted along its sleeves. A nod to Gwyneth Paltrow’s court case quote or to Cardi B’s 2021 song “I Wish You Well In Hell”, or perhaps a sneaky message to their haters, whichever it is, let’s hope they’re primed for another thirty years of finding fun in the madness. Even if they go to Chanel.

Keep up with all the Haute Couture stories here.

This story first appeared on GRAZIA International.