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Interview: Viktor & Rolf

by Penny Martin .

Designing starts for us when the art direction for a show is already done. We try to translate in a product.

Penny Martin: With ruffles, ribbons and floral prints, the Spring/Summer '03 Viktor & Rolf Ready-to-Wear collection was your most classically-feminine so far. Did preparing for your first menswear collection push your womenswear away from the androgyny that characterised previous shows?

Viktor & Rolf: No, probably the new collection for Autumn/Winter '03/04  is more influenced by doing menswear or, better said, the product orientated approach we have taken for menswear. For the Spring/Summer '03 flower collection we were inspired by the powerful emotions scents can evoke. As we are working on our first perfume with L'Oreal we wanted to translate a flower feeling by making the models into dancing flowers. 

Penny Martin: You hadn't shown such decorative printed textiles since your first couture collection in Autumn/Winter 1998. What was the inspiration to shift from your trademark monochromatic approach?

Viktor & Rolf: The monochromatic approach was only for a few seasons, but indeed the all over flower mix was a reaction to that. Often a collection is a reaction to the one before.

Penny Martin: Whereas for Autumn/Winter '02 you projected moving imagery onto totally static models, this season you had them dancing wildly. To what extent is controlling the motion of the clothing an important consideration when art directing your shows?

Viktor & Rolf: Designing starts for us when the art direction for a show is already done. We try to translate in a product.

Penny Martin: It seems a natural progression to move from such dynamic shows into creating fashion films in order to present your collections in motion, rather than in still catwalk shots for or Firstview. Would you consider this?

Viktor & Rolf: Creating a fashion film sounds very interesting and we would be very open to doing that, though it could probably not replace the format of a show.

Penny Martin: You showed your new Autumn/Winter menswear collection using yourselves as the models. Would you say that you are the target audience for this range?

Viktor & Rolf: We design the clothes we want to wear ourselves. Hopefully a lot of men can relate to those clothes

Penny Martin: Who is your target female consumer?

Viktor & Rolf: Tilda Swinton

Penny Martin: You are famously very particular about how your clothing is represented in imagery. Can you outline the criteria you use to choose photographer and models?

Viktor & Rolf: It is hard for us to look at how our clothes are sometimes mistreated in magazines. If we see one of our dresses used as a scarf on a half naked girl in the woods for example, we would then prefer not to work with that stylist again. The stylist could as well buy a piece of fabric for the scarf. It is very strange to see some fashion photographers' work. They are photographically minded, but do not understand clothes, a mood or a model. On the other hand, it can be great to see an amazing interpretation of our design by someone else.

Penny Martin: Much has been made of your referencing of historical art and your clothing is a favourite among curators. Do you find the 'museumification' of your work stifling or is this a useful context in which to view it?

Viktor & Rolf: We have nothing against 'museumification', as long as the museum does not replace the fashion show. It is a big compliment when curators place our work in a context that is bigger than just the moment.

Penny Martin: The avant-garde, almost mythical reputation that has grown up around you as designers seems to exist at one remove from the clothing you produce, which is actually extremely wearable and flattering to the average woman. Do you ever resent the mystification of the Viktor & Rolf brand?

Viktor & Rolf: We always make a distinction between the clothes a woman (or man) wants to wear, and the image of us as a brand. As elitists we can be 'imageuse', so we can be democratic when making a product. It is our biggest challenge to combine these two worlds. Furthermore, we think avant-garde is a word not that exists anymore. What is at the forefront today is mainstream tomorrow, so the only thing we can do is grow at our own speed and claim our space.