The Greco-Roman statuary and neoclassical frieze decorating the head of Viktor & Rolf's catwalk leant itself to a multitude of potential interpretations. Was this collection going to be about Paganism, a return to the purer, simpler values of the Ancients? Were those pastiches of priceless masterworks about the modern ideas of luxury we've seen emerging? Were they kitsch; would Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren be giving us their own witty take on next season's 'Status' dressing? In the end, they were a literal preview: this season Viktor & Rolf were inspired by classical statues, turning out an ode to ancient drapery that transformed their models into walking works of art. The stony-faced and glazed-eyed expression models so often adopt never seemed more appropriate: Horsting and Snoeren furthered the effect by kitting theirs out in whiteface with a glistening, marbleised sheen. The clothes themselves seized on every classical reference from the Winged Victory of Samothrace to the Venus de Milo via Carry On Up Mount Olympus, swagging fabric around sleeve-heads, across shoulders and from hems. But these were no ordinary drapes. Viktor & Rolf sought not to emulate classical drapery per se, but to emulate the classical drapery of statues and stonework, thus the drapes hung static and stiff in a hard carapace around the models' bodies, occasionally flattened into two dimensions as if taken from a Roman frieze, like the topstiched flow of a jacket rever or the banded trompe-l'oeil of a sheared mink coat. Sometimes the pieces seemed a work in progress, a fitted, chiselled torso of a neat trench or long evening dress emerging from rock-like masses of geometric shapes, rendered in every shade of stone from tan onyx to pinky sandstone, granite black, purest white marble and of course every conceivable hue of grey. The motif even extended to accessories, with concrete swathed handbags and shoes balances on Iconic column-heels to literally put these models on a pedestal. If this sounds gimmicky (and a little one-note) it was: while certainly doing justice to the theme and running through every conceivable visual permutation, it felt exhausting rather than exhaustive. The statue theme was an interesting concept, fitting almost-too-perfectly with this season's key themes of drapery, Surrealist games and hard-bitten femininity. More than that, it raised intriguing, enigmatic questions - about artifice, imitation and the idea of woman as aesthetic object - that you hoped the duo would seek to explore further. It didn't happen. The collection ended up merely an exercise in archeological frustration: Viktor and Rolf never managed to chisel any deeper than the shallowest facade of this idea.
The collection ended up merely an exercise in archeological frustration.