Over the past 15 years, Dutch fashion designers Viktor & Rolf have become two of the biggest forces in the industry. Here, twin peeks into their lives, loves and Zwaantje.
Greatest source of inspiration: Viktor Horsting: “Rolf.” Rolf Snoeren: “Viktor.” We find inspiration in ourselves. Our collections and shows are like an autobiography.
Most outlandish design idea to date: We recently opened the retrospective exhibition, “The House of Viktor & Rolf,” at London’s Barbican Art Gallery. We designed a gigantic doll’s house that comprises all of the highlights from our collections over the last 15 years. It has three levels and more than 25 rooms. Each room is home to a collection, which is represented by one or more couture dolls—replicas of porcelain Victorian dolls, dressed in the most iconic outfits from each show. The dolls’ faces and hair are made to look like the girls in the show.
Biggest hurdle as a designer: Our last collection, entitled “No,” was a primal reaction to the ever-increasing pace of fashion. While working on the collection, the word “no” just kept popping up. We believe that it is quite sexy to say “no,” so we decided to acknowledge our feelings and use them creatively.
Most satisfying part of the job: To be in fashion. It is what we have always dreamed of, even when we were little. Fashion for us is still like magic.
Muse: Our ideal person does not have a certain age or body type. They have a certain mindset, a “mind-style”—authentic, intelligent people who follow their own paths. We have always refused to call them “muses,” however, as that has a passive undertone.
Moment when you knew you had “made it”: There is never a sense of ultimate achievement because new dreams always come to the surface. It is our dream to establish a 21st-century fashion house. In 1996, frustrated by a lack of attention from the international press, we visualized and realized our dreams in miniature, tempting fate to turn them into reality. The installation included a miniature design studio, a catwalk show, a photo shoot and a boutique. The launch also included Le Parfum, a fictitious perfume that we produced in a limited edition of 250 bottles, which were sealed shut. In 2004, with the launch of the usable fragrance Flowerbomb, and in 2005, with the opening of the boutique in Milan, we realized these dreams.
Greatest honor to date: Many events, friendships and collaborations come to mind: Our friendship with photographers-artists Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, with whom we have worked on many occasions; our collaboration with singer-songwriter Tori Amos, who performed at a grand piano during one of our shows; our friendship with actress Tilda Swinton, which, among other things, led to dedicating a show in Paris to her; and working with Rufus Wainwright, who performed a live set during one of our shows.
God(dess) of fashion: We do not have a special god(dess) of fashion, but we admired Yves Saint Laurent. He was a great artist whose legacy has colored the world beyond fashion.
First introduction to the world of fashion: We had just moved to Paris and still lived in dismal conditions—a shoebox of an apartment, shared among three people. We had very little money and no employment. We were just out of school and were floating in free air. This was both exhilarating and difficult, because, without a frame of reference, one is left to one’s own devices—or each other’s, in our case. Our first collection felt like a scream for attention, and it set a standard for the rest of our work. The exaggeration in our designs was a reaction to a sense of loneliness and insignificance that was caused by our first encounter with Paris—Paris the city, and Paris the capital of fashion, the bastion we wanted to storm.
Most overused fashion catchphrase: What’s “in” and what’s “out.”
Most abhorrent fashion cliché: What’s “new.”
Biggest fan: Our dogs, Zwaantje & Vicky.
Your own worst sartorial misstep: Everybody has worn things that, in hindsight, might not have been the best choice one could have made. But the beauty of life is that we are supposed to make mistakes that teach you to remove one accessory before leaving the house, and never use hairspray if you are a man. Self-knowledge is the best style guide.