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Viktor & Rolf Spring 2019: Why most people have missed the point entirely

Images via Viktor & Rolf
Words by Bianca O’Neill

Look a little deeper.

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren are the provocateurs of our generation – but today, almost everyone has missed the memo.

Most fashion lovers would have woken up to cheeky photos of Viktor & Rolf’s couture Spring 2019 collection this morning, delivered by media outlets who have lazily re-shared images of its slogan dresses with uninspired hashtags like #bigmood and #same.

However, these people have entirely missed the point – and in a way, played into the exact banal social media behaviour that the duo is examining.

In understanding what they are trying to achieve with dresses emblazoned with meme quotes like “Go F**k Yourself,” it helps to garner some context of their past works first.

Viktor & Rolf is famous for bringing social commentary to life with its couture garments (garments that are themselves a commentary on the excess of fashion), having released collections that frequently question our social interactions and relationship with the media cycle.

The designers’ Wearable Art collection of 2015/16 sent elaborate dresses down the catwalk that were mind-bendingly constructed inside gilt frames – frames reminiscent of those surrounding famous works of art. The collection allowed the intersection between fashion and art to come to life on the runway, and embraced the constant discussion about whether fashion is art or commerce.

Here, Viktor & Rolf said to the pundits – now it is both.

Its Cutting Edge Couture collection for Spring 2010 saw extravagant ballgowns sliced through with holes, a wink at the rich who were financially unbothered by the credit crunch, but saw it as unbecoming to wear their expensive collections during a time of financial crisis.

And now, this year, the iconic duo is taking a swipe at the vacuous world of Instagram and influencers. Think I’m overblowing it? Take Snoeren’s own description of the collection as creating a “strange contradiction.”

“It’s the kind of message you find on social media, with the same instant feeling,” said Snoeren. “All these statements that are so obvious or easy — there’s a lot of banality on Instagram and social media in general — [they] are counterbalanced with this over-the-top, shimmery, romantic feeling.”

It’s an apt metaphor for the lazy content farming of memes in order to drive engagement, with no real connection to the poster themselves. After all, sharing a quote as trite as “Sorry I’m Late I Didn’t Want To Come” is vacuous alpha-signalling at its basest level. You’re not important or interesting, it tells your viewers, but I am.

A dress overtaken by the statement “I Am My Own Muse” reflects on our self-obsessions. An attention-seeking gigantic gown declaring “I’m Not Shy I Just Don’t Like You” notes our generation’s increasing inability to accept those who are different to us, while also needing to declare it loudly and publicly.

Meanwhile, a completely overblown dress with “Less Is More” emblazoned across it acts as a nod to Instagrammers extolling the virtues of sustainability while shlocking their paid-for wares and encouraging questionable over-spending habits.

Sure, fashion can be playful and fun and decidedly un-serious at times – but in the pursuit of coverage and clicks, many of us gloss over the most important onus of fashion design (and couture in particular): to say something about our society, about our politics, about where we are in history. To help us reflect on what we have created.

And sadly, where we are in history at the moment, is placing Fiji Water Girl over important speeches about the progression of the #MeToo movement.

However, if you think that Viktor & Rolf is judging you for posting your favourite memes, you’d be mistaken. Like true artists, the pair is focused on documenting these moments and our innermost obsessions.

“Fascination without condemning; it’s just the world we live in,” said Horsting. Snoeren agreed: “It’s our way of dealing with it.”

Follow Bianca’s fashion coverage over at @bianca.oneill.

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