Like other names on the schedule this week, Viktor & Rolf put out a pretty collection. The dimensional daisies on a tunic, vibrant striped blazers, and graphically-patterned column dresses made for a far more photogenic statement than last season’s flight jacket iterations topped with oversized doll heads. But as with all things proposed by Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, this prettiness came with a twist: Everything you see is made from technical duchesse satin. Call it their mono-material collection.
Compared to what they’ve done previously, the concept doesn’t seem that remarkable—or even unprecedented; it wasn’t that long ago that they created a collection exclusively from Dutch wax textiles. But as the duo explained backstage, after several seasons of working with recycled fabrics indiscriminately, this self-imposed constraint addressed their interest in conscious design from a different direction; if they wanted to make a print or create an embroidery, they had to rethink the possibilities of the fabric. Put another way, they had to design their way out of the box.
Glance at the looks afresh; do they seem different now that you know each petal of embroidery or aspect of openwork resulted from laser-cutting or hand-weaving, respectively? The use of color, for instance, wasn’t random; it helped draw attention to the workmanship. But why duchesse? “For us, it’s like an icon of couture,” said Snoeren, who clarified that it wasn’t real silk but a technical approximate from Japan which was cut on the bias. “I found the fabric more versatile than I had been expecting; I had imagined it to be stiff and cumbersome.”
The irony of this undertaking—one that the great Charles Eames acknowledged when he said, “Design depends largely on constraints”—is that by curbing their tendency towards explosive volumes, surface detail, and drama, the duo produced some very attractive couture. And despite the surrealist floral masks and curtained venue, the takeaway message was very real: We are all just different expressions of the same material.