Ever since their beginning, 25 years ago, Dutch duo Viktor&Rolf have never stopped questioning the unwavering link that unites fashion and art. Creators Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren grant us a rare conversation that takes us inside their unique journey.

By Stéphane Le Duc

Throughout their constant exploration, Viktor and Rolf were never scared to challenge themselves, even when it could have affected their commercial success. Their integrity is what separates them from the rest of the fashion world, which could only be explored through haute couture.

Are the Paris and the haute couture shows a special moment and place for you? Yes, we always say it is our fashion home. It is where we have always shown. It is the home of couture, the cradle for couture, and it has always been very welcoming to our work. For us, couture is really a laboratory for ideas and concepts that you don’t have to necessarily sell.

You two met at the Institute of the Arts in Arnhem in the Netherlands, when you were only 20 years old. Did you immediately feel that you wanted to create fashion that would be different – more creative than commercial? It was a conscious decision at the time, that if we did something, it had to be different than something that had already been done. It was the intention to try to create something new. When we were at school, it was a very creative time, but we got the feeling that once we were out of school, we had to go and find a commercial job. Then after school, we thought, “Maybe we can go even further, instead of saying now we go to any commercial company. Let’s become designers and see how far we can take it.”

In 1993, right after your studies, you went to the famous Festival d’Hyères and you won 3 awards, including the Grand Prize. It brought you a lot of recognition? We thought it was a great networking opportunity. That was the main reason, because we did not know anyone. We had really no idea how to enter into the world of fashion. It was not our intention to become a label. We thought [that] if we don’t win, we will meet some people. If you do something, something will happen – that was the logic behind it. Everybody assumed we were already a label, so that’s why we thought, “Why not give it a try?”

Last year, you had a big exhibition of your work called Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists, at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne (also starting in May at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam). How did you feel when it was proposed by the curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot? We were flattered and excited because we like to show in museums and galleries. Catwalk shows are great, but they are also for a limited audience. Museums are great in another way. The stuff is not moving, it is standing still, so it is extremely controllable, and it is very democratic. It was great to see everything in one spot because the pieces were coming from all over the world. It was a very strict selection, and it is an edit from your past. We chose what we considered to be the most evocative, the most cultural, and the best. Gathering all that together is a wonderful experience. It was also nice to work with Thierry-Maxime, who has a different view on our work. It was outstanding how much he knew about our work.

Art is of great importance in your life and your work. What artists do you appreciate for their work and talent? We went to see the work of the choreographer Dimitri Papaionnou, who is an example of someone we admire. He is trained as a visual artist but works in the world of theatre and dance. He is very inspiring. We also like the Canadian artist David Altmej – with him, we always feel at home, and we don’t know why. It is just unapologetically beautiful. He has a feeling for beauty. Everything he makes becomes beautiful, even something that seems disturbing or scary. It is always beautiful – he can’t help himself.

Your work seems more like art pieces. Do you start with a very precise concept when you work on a collection? It is always an evolution, but we start with a precise concept. It always starts with language, then we have to write it down. Then, we visualize the concept or the little story. Otherwise, it is very difficult to make decisions, like: why does it have to be green, why does it have to be this or that? It needs to refer to an idea we had before.

Do you feel you are at a great time in your life? I think we are quite happy. We are not in the ready-to-wear circus, so we have more time to think and contemplate. It gives [us] more creativity and joy.

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About The Author

Art Director

Cesar Ochoa studied arts in Mexico City where he finds a fascination for fashion magazines. He moved to Canada in 2006 and soon he started collaborating for some magazines in Toronto and Montreal as photographer and graphic designer. Huge fan of Dress to kill he started working for the magazine for four years now as art director.

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