Viktor & Rolf - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

Dutch designers

Born: (both Viktor and Rolf) Netherlands, 1969. Education: Both graduated from the Academia of Amhem, 1992. Company History: Created first collection, 1993; created second collection, 1994; "Winter of Love" presented at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1994; third collection, 1994; created photographic collection, 1995; clothing exhibition in art gallery, 1995; created the Prêt-á-Porter Catalogue, 1995; launched Viktor & Rolf Le Parfum, 1996; Torch Gallery installation, Amsterdam, 1996; continued developing fashion trends as art exhibitions; collection exhibited in Groninger Museum, 1998; designs turned more towards ready-to-wear, 2000. Awards: International Festival of Hyeres, 1993; ANDAM, 1994. Exhibitions: Visionaire Gallery, SoHo, 1999; Groninger Museum, Netherlands, 2001.




Horsting, Viktor, Viktor & Rolf, Artimo Foundation, Amsterdam, 1999.


Martin, Richard, "Viktor & Rolf: Le Regard Noir," in N-28, 1997.

Goldberg, Rose Lee, "Claude Wampler [Performance Art]," Artforum, September 1997.

Phillips, Ian, "Fashion: 21st Century Boys Meet Viktor & Rolf," in Newspaper Publishing PLC, 3 October 1998.

Horyn, Cathy, "Two Dutch Designers Take Couture to the Surreal Side," in the New York Times, 1 June 1999.

——, "Is There Room for Fashion at the Paris Haute Couture Shows?" in the New York Times, 25 July 1999.

Bell, Katy, "Amsterdammer Anarchy: Viktor & Rolf are Mad as Hell and They're Not Going to Wear It Anymore," in Metro Active, January 2000.

Socha, Miles, "Christmas Comes Early at Viktor & Rolf Exhibit," in WWD, Groningen, Netherlands, 10 November 2000.

Bellafante, Ginia, "This is Paris: No Giggling, Please," in the New York Times, 21 March 2001.

Wilson, Eric, "Victor & Rolf to ICV," in Women's Wear Daily , 5 September 2001.


Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, more commonly known as Viktor & Rolf—purveyors of elaborate style and exotic design, are as much known for their works of art as they are for fashion. They sculpt their designs by distorting proportions—creating high collars and elaborate draping to hide the body, making it seemingly vanish into the sculpture. Always adding to the fabrics, Viktor & Rolf often use ornamentation that mocks accessories, including Christmas trees balls, colorful tinsel garlands, and pleated Pierrot collars. This is a clear indication of their reputation to shock and challenge fashion and remain with the forerunners of originality. Their creation of the unusual "atomic bomb," for example, was a shrewd combination of

Viktor & Rolf, fall/winter 2000-01 haute couture collection: pants with bells sown down the sides and matching bell-covered jacket. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Viktor & Rolf, fall/winter 2000-01 haute couture collection: pants with bells sown down the sides and matching bell-covered jacket.
© AP/Wide World Photos.
extreme fashion and art. The costume had the model's head resting on top of a huge mushroom form, a chiffon blouse inflated with brightly colored balloons, jackets with neon mink dots, and a black-and-white collection shown under scant neon light in a dark room. "Fashion doesn't hold a big value with Dutch people," Snoeren commented to the New York Times' Cathy Horyn. "In Holland," Horsting continued, "the mentality is you're not supposed to want to stand out. We made our collections to be noticed, but it was also a reaction."

Adhering to their reputation to intrigue and fascinate, Viktor & Rolf created Le parfum to awaken the fashion industry's senses with a perfume that provided no scent. The 250 limited edition bottles of Le parfum were never meant to be opened; another step clearly meant to integrate fashion as an art form.

Viktor & Rolf's first clothing collection was shown at a competition called Salon European des Jeunes Stylistes in 1993. The collection was comprised of preexisting pieces of garments blended into a collage, to create new clothing. In 1994 Viktor & Rolf created two collections, the first consisting of several variations of a white dress, most of which were high-waisted and long, like ballgowns, but there were also shirts blown up with balloons and confetti, giving the presentation a satirical bent. The other collection revolved around the aptly named "Black Square Dress," with squared-off shoulders to create an illusion of abstract art.

In 1995 their collection appeared at the Galerie Patricia Dorfmann in Paris, and consisted of five suspended gold garments of several different silhouettes. Next came the "Shadowdress," a dark, opaque dress which was a three-dimensional form of the pieces from the collection. Tracing back history, the "Shadow Cape" of 1996 featured the strong silhouette of an 1890s torso but in light, silk fabric. Softness and versatility were behind the addition of a grey bodysuit and supple white dress added to the collection.

Viktor & Rolf have proven that fashion and art can be interchangeable, and the Groninger Museum recognized their efforts in 1998. A permanent collection of 28 pieces from five collections exhibited fashion as an art form. The apparel, eerily exhibited on mannequins in a dark room, were illuminated as lights hit their rotating platforms. In January 1999, the designing duo created a black and white collection with firm skirts and poofy ruffs. Presentation of the collection involved ultraviolet lights so every white object glowed. Three of the 17 outfits from this collection were put on display at the trendy Visionaire art gallery and publishing house in SoHo, where fellow designers Diane von Furstenberg and Ronald van der Kemp were in attendance, along with a variety of celebrities. In a July 1999 show, the designers presented a collection by placing their model atop a revolving turntable. Dressed in a silk minidress, additional clothing was placed on the model by the designers with every revolution of the platform. By the ninth rotation, she was seemingly engulfed in Viktor & Rolf's designs—and so was the audience. Horyn decreed the show, "the most brilliant of the week."

With their reputation as fashion designers and artists, Viktor & Rolf have recently segued more into ready-to-wear collections, yet without detracting from their reputations as designers of art. Their first ready-to-wear collection, in collaboration with Gibo SpA, was launched in 2000; the lines was more wearable and functional, like jeans, ruffled shirts, and sexy pantsuits, which exhibited the designers' fondness for masculine styling for women. Yet the most popular portion of the spring collection was a stars-and-stripes motif, on jackets and shirts, inspired by the song "American Pie" by Don McLean. Several upscale retailer, including Barneys New York, placed orders.

A spring 2001 collection at the famed Louvre museum featured American classics, especially old Hollywood, and the styles from the glory days of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s—as modernized by Viktor & Rolf. The new line included fluid cabaret trouser suits, variations on the basic white shirt, trench coats, swinging skirts, and tap shorts. Silver seemed to be the hot accessory of the season, with metallic flashes seen on tops, shirt collars, pants, and even tuxedos. Always paying close attention to bringing art into fashion, Viktor & Rolf ended a 2000 fashion show by tap-dancing together in white tuxedos.

—Kimbally A. Medeiros

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