You'd be forgiven for using the hackneyed phrase 'once in a blue moon' to describe when Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren stage a show that really grabs your attention. Of course it wasn't always that way: once upon a time circa ten years ago, Viktor & Rolf were the conceptual poster-boys of Paris' then-new avant-garde. However, they quickly matured into the establishment, and a stuffy one at that. But a blue moon was indeed hanging over their Autumn/Winter 2012 catwalk and - wouldn't you know it - the Dutch Duo managed to confound expectations once again and turn out a jolly good show.
You had an inkling it would be great as the first exits began to appear: they slid across the top of the catwalk in static silhouette, each one striking an odd attitude to display the graphic outline of the clothes to best advantage. The technical trickery was rather fabulous to start, a combination of Chinese shadow-puppet-play and arch fifties couture. Neither of which referenced the actual garments shown, but no matter.
Viktor & Rolf talked about something covered-up and Victorian. Maybe they'd been reading Edgar Allen Poe, as there was something dark and foreboding in this collection, fur pushing through from inside seams like something wicked seeping out from within. Beastly fur textures were a central motif, both actual pelts and prints and jacquards derived from the striations of animal hide. It all had a touch of the boogeyman, or beauty and the beast - something monstrous combined with something incredibly refined. Chiffon and tulle evening dresses of breathtaking delicacy exploded with fragments of hair, fox coats were shaved into a contraption halfway between a championship poodle and a tour de force of topiary. They were a little theatrical (as they sound), but the tuxedos with bulbous, inflated cuffs and silvery satin pyjama suits with folds of fabric emphasising hips and elongated sleeves dangling to the knees felt like a touch of surrealism in otherwise very real outfits, distorted as if seen in a dream
'Dream' isn't a word that's cropped up often over the past few seasons when describing Viktor and Rolf collections - a similar term, but rather more pejorative, was much more common. This time, it wasn't really a dream, as the outfits were grounded in reality, those fantastical silhouettes coming to life in a way that meant you imagine quite a number in a woman's wardrobe. It wasn't perfect - there were a few too many fur-throttled diaphanous dresses and the printed pyjamas feel like an idea well and truly done to death in every collection - but there was some of the old magic still bubbling under the surface. If nothing else, Horsting and Snoeren deserve to sleep well knowing this was a job well done.