The Viktor & Rolf Monsieur label is in a New Age mood for spring-summer 2012, feeling all mystical and free-spirited -- and apparently communing with the dolphins.
The dolphin is the Dutch design duo's motif of the season, you see, and appears in screenprinted silhouette on sweatshirts, as a lace-like applique on dress shirts, worked into an all-over shirt pattern and as a jacquard on suit linings.
But no one needed face-time with Flipper to get that the Danish design duo of Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren were relaxing on the inner beaches of their consciousness, not only for the '70s-era vibe of the suede and denim pieces but for the color palette.
The range of sandy beiges, muted yellows of midafternoon coastal sun and multiple shades of blue -- often layered horizontally to evoke the gradations of color where the sky meets the sea on the horizon -- made the clothes as calming as a Riviera seascape.
The eye-catching accessory of the show was a collection of bow ties, some transparent ones that looked clear as glass (which seems downright dangerous to have strapped against one's Adam's apple) and others that were fashioned out of blue terry cloth.
Which, come to think of it, might come in handy after taking that dip with the dolphins.
Take a simple concept and riff on it endlessly. That was the recipe for several spring collections shown in Paris over the weekend.
The horizontal Breton stripes that have been all over the streets like a rash since last year have trickled up to many a designer runway this season. But in Junya Watanabe's hands, stripes became extraordinary.
Turning them every which way, he created Op Art effects on T-shirt dresses, coat dresses and long skirts.
He added to the seafaring theme with nautical-prints (think lanterns and life preservers), canvas windbreakers, softly draped chiffon trenches, and straw boaters. (With their heads covered by stockings, the models looked even more like faceless mannequins than they already do.)
At Comme des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo's concept was somewhat more mysterious. A coat with other coats hanging on its back, or a thick black strip across the front like the bars across photos in a worst-dressed fashion spread.
A dress loaded down with other dresses, or sculpted into perfect shape with a molded leather bra, wide, waist-cinching belt and full skirt.
What did it all mean? When I saw a white jacket with a black band stretched across the bodice from sleeve to sleeve, preventing the arms from moving, I had an inkling it might be about the toll of fashion (the excess, the extremes to which we mold and adapt our bodies, etc.) In other words, this was a show about fashion victims, which is amusing on so many levels.
For the finale, models came out in pairs, attached like Siamese twins with a dress between them. Were they bound by fashion as kindred spirits, competitors or something else? Who knows, but as always, the collection was a mindbender.
Viktor & Rolf designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren have had their share of mind-bending collections, too. But this season's was not one of them.
Instead, it was centered around the concept of a man's button-down shirt (which we have seen them do at least once before). The designers reimagined the shirt as a pair of cropped pants with French cuffs, a shirtdress with an open collar tilted to one side to reveal a bare shoulder, and another shirtdress with jersey insets at the waist and sleeves.
But between the awkward silhouettes and cheap-looking satiny fabrics, it was clear that this time, the shirt got short shrift.
Photos top: Looks from the Junya Watanabe, left, Comme des Garcons, middle, and Viktor & Rolf, right, spring-summer 2011 runway collections shown during Paris Fashion Week. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson and Peter Stigter / For The Times. Photo left: coat from Junya Watanabe. Photo right: dress by Comme des Garcons, middle: two models from the Comme des Garcons runway show. Photo bottom: Shirt from Viktor & Rolf. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson & Peter Stigter / For The Times.
At a time when the fashion industry is redefining what luxury means, designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren pulled back the curtain, and put the nuts and bolts of the design process center stage on their runway, transforming one garment into another and another in front of our very eyes.
Left photo: Rihanna at the Clive Davis pre-Grammy party. Credit: WireImage. Right photo: A model wears the same design on the runway for spring 2010 Viktor & Rolf in Paris. Credit: Peter Stigter and Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times
Reporting from Paris -- Designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren finally brought their 7-year-old Viktor & Rolf Monsieur men's line to the runway this season, though given the small, intimate venue -- models walked past a tightly packed audience on the ground floor of their Blvd. Montmarte showroom -- the format itself was not a huge departure from the appointment-only way they've presented their menswear in the past.
But it would have been hard to truly appreciate the Fall/Winter 2010 collection's inspiration without having it shown against the backdrop of ink-splatter pattern carpeting and a fellow (up-and-coming Berlin-based singer/songwriter Ben Hamilton) perched on a bar stool in the corner crooning a soulful 9 1/2-minute version of the Rolling Stones song "Paint It Black."
"I see a red door and I want it painted black / No colors anymore I want them to turn black / I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes / I have to turn my head until my darkness goes"
So what inspired the Dutch design duo who routinely create one of the most thematically light-hearted labels on the planet?
"We just really, really like the song 'Paint it Black,' " Snoeren told me backstage after the show.
"There's something about the stubbornness of the song," Horsting added. "If you listen to it, he just keeps saying it over and over again."
Watching the collection reminded me of the words of Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel ("How much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black."
There were black-overdyed dress shirts that looked as if they'd been painted to within a few inches of the collar, black trompe l'oiel glitter splatters on pant legs and models who took to the catwalk in thick black eyeglass frames and black paint streaked across their faces.
But more importantly, the palette, which only strayed from the black and gray color story on a scarf here and a dress shirt there (midnight blue, naturally), helped showcase the collection's focus on layering and texture. There was a sleeveless ribbed knit sweater with a monochromatic checked silk pocket square stuffed in the breast pocket, a shiny, black quilted puffer vest under a black leather three-quarter-length coat, and multiple collars on tuxedos, shirts and sweaters that varied in fabrication but were of the same color -- black.
The designers denied that the melancholia of the collection was inspired by anything in particular.
"The color black has always been part of what we do," Snoeren said, pointing out the black V&R wax seal logo.
"And, to us, black has always been the color of cool."
And based on the mostly monochromatic collection for Fall 2010, that's an assessment that seems likely to continue.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: At top, looks from the runway debut of Viktor & Rolf Monsieur during Paris Fashion Week on Thursday. The designers were inspired by the Rolling Stones song "Paint It Black," and did they ever. Photo credit: Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the shake-up going on in the fashion industry, how the rise of Internet use and fast-fashion consumption is challenging the taste making role of the elite, and how consumer attitudes are changing regarding the economic and ecological impact of more-is-more spending.
Designers are reacting in different ways (or not at all). Some are live streaming their runway shows on the Web to communicate more directly with the Internet-savvy public, others are using less expensive fabrics to help keep prices down in the hope of luring customers back to the luxury sector. And still others are making statements through their collections.
At Comme des Garcons, a soundtrack that shifted back and forth from lulling classical music to a cacophony of noise, set the scene for a commentary on life's frenzied pace. Dresses and boleros were collages of trends past, including ruffles, frills, polka dots and sequins. Several models wore exaggerated leather shoulder pads, as if designer Rei Kawakubo was mocking the recent 1980s shoulder pad trend wrought by the meteoric rise of the label Balmain, and the cannibalization of the look by purveyors of fast fashion just as quickly.
PARIS -- It's always interesting when fashion deals with the idea of permanence, which is so antithetical to the whole 'here today, gone tomorrow' enterprise. But that's exactly what Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren did with their provocative Viktor & Rolf collection Monday with a visual pun on the overused term "classic."
Against a backdrop of classic marble statuary, they sent out clothes in all shades of stone, with details that mimicked the draping and pleating on the marble figures. They started with skirts and coats molded and folded into stalagmite-like points, before moving into soft silk and lace draped or seamed to evoke similar sculptural features.