If art galleries are intended as quiet places of contemplation, escape and intrigue than surely the catwalk must be its overly eccentric twin sister who turns the wonder, magic and theatre of dress ups and showmanship on its head inciting our lust for drama, desire and of course designer couture dreams. Put the two of these together and you get a taste of what’s on offer for legendary Dutch design duo Viktor& Rolf’s spectacular collaboration with the NGV.
I must admit, I took my time to go see this exhibition having not been too familiar with their back story they seemed to be a bit of a mysterious fashion anomaly for me, so lured in part by a heady mix of glamour and avant-garde I took the plunge and began to delve a little deeper into the world of exquisite artistry and fantastical couture to discover a history that’s as rich as the collections themselves.
To begin with, all you need do is look up at the whimsical wall paper art made up of hundreds of their fashion sketches, to realise there is so much to learn and love about the visual aesthetics and raw performance of this exhibition that is at once quite visceral and mesmerising to the viewer. The beauty and ambience of each piece is played out in part with such perfection and precision that you almost forget that all is not quite what it seems and like their stand out opening piece ‘Russian doll’ (which was a favourite of mine) there are many intricate layers to be discovered.
Meeting at Art school in 1988, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren forged a friendship based on mutual admiration and respect for each other’s work but it wasn’t until their first trip to Paris just out of art school, that they decided to take a leap of faith and enter a competition that would forever seal their fate as leading fashion artists and Haute Couture visionaries of our time.
In their own words, ‘Our work comes from our life, and the experience that we have…our life is not always rosy so, however we are feeling we will take that as our inspiration. Emotions are complex and this means that sometimes we may use frustration as a starting point for our collection. A good example is a collection that was entirely dedicated to the word ‘no’- and the word no was used because we were feeling antagonism towards the fashion system and the feeling of ‘oh my god’ not another season, not another collection.’
‘We started designing but the word ‘no’ kept popping up and then instead of denying that we decided to use it. ‘We also think it’s very important to push boundaries and see how far we can go…sometimes we go too far but that is always a learning experience. No new ground is being discovered if you don’t take risks. ‘I would go back to the phrase follow your own path or walk your own walk…don’t try to imitate anyone and really try to make a difference by making something that no-one has ever seen before and that is uniquely yours.’
So wherever you sit on the spectrum bridging fashion and art, there’s something so refreshingly real and honest (not to mention comforting) about knowing that somewhere in-between exists ‘Viktor & Rolf’- forever evolving and challenging our notions and pre-conceived ideas of high art and haute couture, embracing change and creating in its place a kind of beautiful, quiet chaos one expertly crafted, de-constructed piece of sequinned tulle at a time…
NGV Viktor & Rolf’ Exhibition – Fashion Artists is now on at the NGV until the 26th Feb, 2017 featuring up to 40 of their signature ensembles and 21 exquisite dolls, handmade by a traditional Belgium doll maker. Don’t miss your chance to immerse yourself in the magical world of ‘wearable art’ and intricately crafted couture!!