When does visual trickery fall into jokey gimmickry? That's a question always on the tip of your tongue and at the front of your mind at a Viktor and Rolf show, where the house slogan could - or maybe should - be 'If there's a theme, there's a (run)way.'
The pithy sound-bite inspiring Viktor and Rolf's Autumn/Winter 2011 collection was idea of a 'Fashion Crusade', and Horsting and Snoeren certainly ran with it. Cue a comedy Disney sound-effect for a dropping drawbridge at the start, and models marching out quick-smart in strongly-seamed outfits crafted to resemble postmodern armour. Skirts were corrugated with pleats, which whirled into buttresses at the shoulders, which ran down the sleeves of shirts and frotted the surface of those skirts again. Yes, pleats please was a clarion cry this season. The colour palette was restricted to white, red, black and grey. Those are the colours of warfare, after all: the red of blood, the grey of steel, the black knight, the white dove of peace. They're also the colours of Coca-Cola, of pop culture and crass commercialism. Guess which one this collection reeked of?
Let's look at this objectively. There were lots of big coats in hardy wool that will look great on the retail floor. The trousers were well-cut, and when Snoeren and Horsting kept those pleats under control they often looked interesting spiralling around the body. Red sashes slashing across tunics - matched with freak-show red make-up that made the models look like a cross between an Oompa-Loompa and a tanning-bed victim - were just costumey, as was most of the armour referencing. What was more, it felt old - Vivienne Westwood pulled it off with aplomb in 1988. This is 2011, the joke's worn thinner than tissue-paper.
In the end, you weren't really sure what Viktor and Rolf's fashion crusade was all about. If it was against bad taste, the jury's still out as to which side wins. If it was creativity versus commerce, the blandness of the vast majority of this offering coupled with beaming bigwig Renzo Rosso front row sounded the triumphal horn loud, long and clear.