Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren may have a reputation for hardcore old-school conceptualism, but they always make the general gist immediately discernible to the layman. Their latest spring collection is the perfect illustration: you didn't need the ins and outs of the ideas underneath the frocks to cotton on to the notion that we were witnessing a further elaboration of that boy-girl thing that seems to be so obsessing Paris fashion's head honchos. And what single garment epitomises that fusion more than the humble shirt-dress?
'Shirt Symphony' was the puny title the Dutch duo chose, and that was the show in a nutshell. Each outfit took the classic button-down, ripped it up and reworked the components into a new garment. The striped banker's shirt became a ribbon-tattered baby-doll frock, others were pulled off one shoulder and elongated to the floor, while some came inflated to Paul Bunyan proportions, studded with giant cufflinks and with collars rising above the models' eyebrows. The best-looking of the bunch dropped into narrow trains at the back, billowing like superhero capes. Widening their scope, Viktor and Rolf started to crash together other elements of male and female garb: moccasins and cowboy boots were given four-inch heels, and a couple of mint satin prom-frocks seemed cross-bred with a grey flannel tailoring, like a synthesis of the mid-century Nuclear Couple of housewife and hardworking suited-and-booted husband.
Viktor and Rolf began their career in haute couture, and hence the logical conclusion to all that was, for them, a blushing bride. Or rather, the fashion equivalent of marital consummation - fusing the bride and groom into a single unit. If that all sounds a touch blue, what it actually resulted in was a parade of overblown, starchy bridal-frocks seemingly crafted from oversized dickies, so two-dimensional the models almost looked like crazed paper cut-out dolls brought to life. Those were a pleasing catwalk diversion - but one of those cape-back shirts in rich duchess satin twinned with black tailored trousers was wedding-night dynamite.