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Viktor&Rolf exhibition showcases the success of the 'polder model'

By Caitlyn Terra

May 30, 2018


Amsterdam - "The only thing we ever disagree about is the temperature in the car," joked Rolf Snoeren when asked how his collaboration with Viktor Horsting has been going for the past 25 years. "We always say that we are a good example of the polder model; we keep on talking until there is a consensus," added Horsting during the press preview of the exhibition 'Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists 25 years' at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam. "That is really what this exhibition is, 25 years of dialogue," said Snoeren.

"Every collection, every season, starts with a blank piece of paper," said the designers. "From there we will talk, write it down and then begin to visualize it." These visualizations can be seen on the walls of the large hall of the exhibition. Sketches, large and small, are spread across the wall like wallpaper. One can view the drawings alone for hours, thanks to the small written remarks such as 'Who is going to do this?' that can be found between the sketches. The walls used in the exhibition are one of the many examples of the blank paper present at the beginning of a new season which gradually transforms into one of the iconic collections from Viktor&Rolf. "We always say that we never receive a diploma, it is never finished," said Viktor Horsting.

25 years Viktor&Rolf: "This exhibition is 25 years of dialogue"

In honour of the 25-year anniversary of Viktor&Rolf, the name the design-duo were given during their participation in the Hyères Festival when they won three prizes, 87 designs are exhibited. A large part of which has never be showcased in a museum. Some of the items are on loan from Han Nefkens, one of the great admirers and collectors of Viktor&Rolf's work. "When I saw a Viktor&Rolf piece for the first time, a whole new world opened up for me. It showed me that fashion designers also conveyed messages through their collections," said Nefkens. It was more than twenty years ago that this world opened up to Nefkens, and the designer duo hopes to open up that world to more people through the exhibition. "That way everyone can see it, not just a handful of people during the shows in Paris."

The Russian Doll collection, where Horsting and Snoeren dressed up one model on the catwalk, is widely seen as the duo's 'breakthrough' moment. "Then people really started paying attention." It is also not surprising that this collection occupies a large part of the exhibition, together with other items from their early days, such as the dress that the designers made for their participation in the Hyères Festival. The Russian Doll collection is arranged in the order in which the garments were placed on the Maggie Ritzer model, accompanied by a video of the show. "For that moment on the art world took notice of us. The art world was there before the fashion world," pointed out Snoeren. "We did not know how to enter the fashion industry."

The fact that the duo has successfully entered the fashion industry is now history. Viktor&Rolf's fashion legacy, following on from the Russian-Doll collection, can mainly be seen in the main hall. Not only are different pieces from collections, such as the Wearable Art, Cutting Edge Couture, Action Dolls, Surreal Satin and Bedtime Story collections showcased in the hall, the wedding dress from Princess Mabel van Oranje and her funeral dress are also displayed in the same hall. In addition to full-size designs, 25 porcelain dolls from the exhibition 'The House of Viktor & Rolf' are shown in the main hall. This makes it possible to process many more designs in 'Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists 25 years' than the space would allow if they were all full-size designs. Each doll is dressed in haute couture that has been recreated exactly to scale using original patterns. A little further on in the exhibition one can also admire the costumes from Madonna in another room and the costumes for the Dutch Doubles performance by Dutch National Ballet. "Madonna was very specific with what she wanted. That was actually great," said Snoeren.

The 25-year-old 'polder model' by Viktor&Rolf in the Kunsthal

The exhibition marks the celebration of 25 years of dialogue, friendship and beauty. Whether the designers continue for another 25 years is another question. But collector Han Nefkens is certain of that. "I have just been assured that after my death, the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum will receive a donation of 300,000 euros to continue collecting. So now they have to keep on designing. "

The exhibition 'Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists 25 years' can be seen in the Kunsthal in Rotterdam until 30 September 2018.

Homepage: The House at the End of the World, 2005, Foto: David LaChapelle Studio

Photo 1: The Chainsaw Massacre, Cutting Edge Couture,ready-to-wear collection, SS 2010, credit: Wayne Taylor
Photo 2: Russian Doll, haute couture collection, AW 1999, credit: Wayne Taylor
Photo 3: Wearable Art, haute couture collection, AW 15/16, credit: Wayne Taylor
Photo 4: Action Dolls, haute couture collection, AW 2017, credit: Team Peter Stigter
Photo 5: Van Gogh Girls, haute couture collection, SS 2015, credit: Team Peter Stigter

Translated and edited by Vivian Hendriksz