The Scene: Viktor & Rolf Fall 2014 Haute Couture at La Gaîté Lyrique, a digital arts and music center in the former Théâtre de la Gaîté, built in 1862.
The Inspiration: Haute Couture Week is far from easy or glamorous, especially this season, for two reasons: The Paris skies have been gray and rainy almost nonstop, and the unseasonable temps (50 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday morning) have rendered most packed suitcases useless (it’s all about the layering, ladies), while the increased invasion of high jewelry appointments (once consigned to Thursday only) has resulted in a schedule more harried than ever before. If this sounds like a setup for what’s to come, well, you’d be right. Since Sunday night, a legion of press has shuttled faithfully from show to appointment and back to show again, all to witness the glory of handcraft. That last word lies at the heart of what makes both haute couture and high jewelry so special, a house’s ceaseless dedication to and passion for showing off its savoir faire. All of which didn’t exist at Viktor & Rolf tonight. From the first look to the last, one thought reigned in my mind: Bath mats. Identically toned, similarly wrapped and shaped bath mats. And sure enough, soon after the show, a colleague commented upon seeing one photo, “It’s like those elastic towels on late night TV!”
Now, much likely will be said and written in the coming hours and days about this show, and I fully expect more than one reviewer to wax rhapsodic about how “forward” this collection was, or upon reading this, for a reader to comment that I “just didn’t get it.” I’d be the first to say: “You’re right, I didn’t get it.” I can appreciate the theatricality of it — the audience was surrounded from above by a “show audience” who kicked off the proceedings by applauding, as though they had just witnessed what we were about to, and they continued to rhythmically clap throughout the show, thus providing its beat and music — and we can debate for hours whether this was a commentary on fashion’s growing surrealism and society’s obsession with the red carpet (because indeed, every single look, down to the flat, fuzzy oxfords, was offered up in a range of burnt orange to umber to tonally match V&R’s rouge runway). To which I pose the following questions: Where was the handcraft? Where was the savoir faire? And have we all been magically transported into a Robert Altman film? I know Viktor & Rolf are capable of savoir faire in glorious quantities: their Swiss-cheese dresses from several seasons back were exceptional, an exercise in modern artistry mixed with a dash of Dutch humor. Even the ghostly ballerinas from the Spring 2014 Couture offering had more artistry and wearability than seen here. But alas, much of what makes this duo great was decidedly absent from the majority of the 22 looks we saw tonight.
The Look: An undeniable wearability can be found in the flocked pieces — a toga-like dress with a smattering of a leopard pattern trailing down its front, or a sheer blouse with graphic tiger stripes — but they were interspersed too greatly by the simply wrapped pieces adorned with giant bows; après shower, I’ll be crafting a similar garment tomorrow morning.
The Front Row: DJ Mia Moretti and the Brant brothers. You can typically count on Viktor & Rolf to proffer a couple of A-listers in its front row, but it’s telling that this was the extent of celebrity. Mia is talented, but rich kids there for the cameras? Pass.
The Takeaway: I’d like to meet the couture client who will step up to order this. If so, I’d also be hard-pressed to call her a true couture client. Here’s hoping Viktor & Rolf’s magic returns next season.