They say that ´fashion is art´, but what happens when ´art becomes fashion´? Over 15 years ago, Hussein Chalayan captivated us with his ´coffee table skirt´ in which a model stepped into a centric coffee table, then pulling it up to produce a wooden A-line skirt.
This philosophy was once again repeated for the recent couture offerings in Paris where Dutch fashion design duo Viktor and Rolf transformed broken picture frames filled with fabric and heavily printed canvases into haute-couture gowns during their latest catwalk show, by taking them off a wall and draping them over models. The Avant-Garde extravaganza entitled ´The Wearable Art Collection´ was showcased within the mezzanine space of the Palais de Tokyo during Paris’ Haute Couture Autumn Winter 2015 fashion offering.
During the ten minute spectacle, founding designers of the Amsterdam based fashion house then took to the catwalk to assist in completing the outfits in the live collection. In sequence, the “paintings” were displayed on a partition at the back of the stage which was unhooked by the duo, which then reconfigured the sections of gilded frames and materials onto the models by lifting the pieces over their shoulders or up their legs in front of the engaged audience.
The frames formed exaggerated almost organic silhouettes over simple paint-splattered denim dresses with rolled-up sleeves (designed to look like artists’ shirts). Viktor wanted the catwalk to be where “Art comes to life in a gallery of surreal proportions. A dress transforms into an artwork, back into a dress and into an artwork again. Poetry becomes reality, morphing back into fantasy.”
The garments at the beginning of the show were blank canvases, made from white fabric shaped with wooden batons around hems and collars. Following on from this, skirts, dresses and capes were all created from the heavy canvas, supported with gold-coloured waistbands and ties resting over the shoulders. The structures of the frames resulted in loose pleats and layers of material.
´Art comes to life in a gallery of surreal proportions. A dress transforms into an artwork then back into a dress. Poetry becomes reality, morphing back into fantasy.´ – Rolf Snoeren
Throughout the presentation, the fabric of each outfit became more heavily patterned decorated with images based on Dutch Golden Age paintings of the 17th century and a nod to the history of their founding city and it´s heritage. “The painterly gesture is achieved through trompe l’oeil techniques: each artwork is executed in a complex layering of laser-cut jacquards, embroideries and appliqués,” said Rolf later.
Swans, portraits, nudes and still lifes which created in the style of artists such as Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals could be spotted as motifs. “Intricate motifs parade the catwalk, transforming Golden Age paintings with the rawness and spontaneity of action painting¨ outlined their main philosophy.
As the show progressed in complexity and tempo, so did the shapes of the garments. The support frames and material were thrust out horizontally from the shoulders and the hips of different dresses. Upon closer inspection, in some areas the beige underside of the material was revealed, aiming to reinforce the idea of clothing-artwork hybrids. One of the final dresses featured a giant collar and a zig-zagging hem that stretched out and up to one side, displaying fabric decorated with a still-life image of fruit (in the style of Rembrandt).
After the show, Dutch art collector Han Nefkens acquired one of the pieces to donate to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam in homage to their art / fashion curation and archives to the gratitude of all its art loving Dutch followers.
The collection builds on the art references of the duo’s spring / summer 2015 haute-couture collection, in which floral gowns and straw head dresses were based on paintings by Vincent van Gogh. This latest instalment will certainly add another flare to the divergence of talents that are turning Amsterdam into a fashion designhub.
Article: Charles Daniel McDonald
Photography Credits: Viktor & Rolf