Viral Couture: Viktor & Rolf Arrives At Browns
What do you get when you combine traditional couture practices with the meme culture of the internet age? It probably looks something like Viktor & Rolf’s S/S 2019 Couture Collection, which went viral after the gigantic tulle gowns stormed the runway emblazoned with slogans such as “No Photos Please” and “I’m Not Shy I Just Don’t Like You”. With the gowns now arriving in the windows of our South Molton Street flagship, we spoke to the designers about the ideas behind the collection and their thoughts on today’s digital reality.
How did the idea for these gowns develop? What prompted you to make them?
The power of expressive clothing. We wanted to comment on how fashion is consumed by social media, and we wanted to literally explore how much of a ‘message’ you can give with clothes. What can one ‘say’ with a garment, what fashion can express.
How did you choose which slogans to use?
We wanted a nice mix of ironic, cynical and more positive and hopeful slogans.
Do you intend them to be interpreted in a light-hearted way, or are you trying to communicate something more serious about the world at large?
The statements are meant to reference the kind of language used on social media or souvenir t-shirts. The contradiction between these almost banal statements and the sugary femininity of the elaborate tulle dresses is, to us, an interesting clash of worlds, commenting on fashion in social media.
What is your relationship with the internet? Do you engage with social media and meme culture?
We prefer to treat these vehicles (website, social media) as we do everything else in our creative universe – we want to think about them on an existential level and rethink their basis.
What do you think has been the effect of the internet age on fashion?
The landscape has changed. Younger generations have ‘tools’, let’s say. We are fascinated by the pace of it – emerging fashion markets and all elements of social media. Everything is accessible in a more immediate sense.
It’s ironic that gowns based around the internet age went viral. Did you expect this?
No! But it was quite interesting to see how that functioned. We were quite surprised at the extreme reaction, because it was picked up instantly and went viral. We’d never experienced that before.
Couture is known for being a very traditional industry. Were you apprehensive about showcasing such an avant-garde offering?
For us, couture is a way of expressing ourselves. It is a creative statement – we’ve always considered it to be a laboratory of ideas.
How important is it to you to have a sense of humour in your work?
We try to express different emotions, and strive for complexity. But we always try to keep things light because it is more difficult for us to be lighthearted than heavy-handed.
Who has been your favourite person you’ve seen wearing one of them?
We loved Hailee Steinfeld in our “No Photos Please” dress at the Met Gala.
Your work is often considered as art. What is the advantage of working in fashion as opposed to art?
We look for the boundaries of fashion, and we make clothes as autonomous pieces, using fashion as a means of expression. Fashion itself is a continuous source of inspiration. Fashion, and what it can be. Its boundaries, its (im)possibilities.
What’s something surprising about this collection that people wouldn’t otherwise know?
The colourful collection is entirely executed in eight kilometers of tulle.
Portrait by Team Peter Stigter