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A Creative Collaboration Between Viktor & Rolf and Studio Job

The response to Viktor & Rolf’s showing during Paris Fashion Week has been extreme. Most adored it, a few loathed it, but everyone is talking about it.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 08-10-2009

Dutch designers, Nynke Tynagel and Job Smeets from Studio Job have enjoyed a long and creative professional as well as personal relationship with Viktor & Rolf. “We go way back to the mid 90s when we were all living in Paris trying to keep our heads above water,” says Smeets. “Since then, we have designed furniture for their showrooms in Tokyo, Paris, New York and Milan; we have collaborated on jewellery and also fabrics.”

So that the old gang collaborated for Viktor & Rolf's Spring/Summer 2010 collection during Paris Fashion Week makes good sense. It is not like the fashion duo suddenly called the design house asking for runway objects. “Definitely not,” says Smeets. “We are in constant conversation over all sorts of things. It was a very natural process.”

Smeets believes the collaboration works because all four of the designers work in a similar way. “We are all inspired by things that are going on around us,” says Smeets, “and we materialize those ideas into sculptures. Ours is art or design and theirs is fashion, but the thinking is very much the same.”

Originally, the massive globe that sat at the start of the Paris runway was designed by Studio Job to show at the Swarovski Palace during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in 2008 in Milan. A globe is a strong and all-encompassing icon. It is mother earth, apt considering that directly opposite the object a heavily pregnant Róisín Murphy - singer and environmental activist - stood on a pedestal and sang under layers of pink tulle.

“I think it also references the global crisis and how everyone across the world is suffering because of it,” says Smeets. “The globe is all we really have and all the problems are hidden within it. It’s everything.”

And Studio Job’s objects set the ideal mood for the credit-crunch couture on offer. Massive tulle ballgowns with large chunks chiseled and (literally) tunneled out. Another full skirt was chopped in half horizontally with the bottom fullness appearing to defy gravity.

“For sheer fashion audacity, the prize goes to Viktor & Rolf,” wrote Armand Limnander on The New York Times blog, The Moment. And, “Horsting and Snoeren haven't always scored with their conceptual games the last few seasons, but today it was a total blast watching them let it rip,” wrote Nicole Phelps of style.com.

Much of the jubilance over the show was a sensual response to its scale. The Studio Job scenery was more then just a stage or a piece of temporary theatre. They were art pieces and the quality matched the clothes. “The fashion world has seen some great backdrops from design houses like Chanel,” says Smeets, “but in the end they are temporary objects built to last for fifteen minutes and you can tell. These were real art sculptures and the effect is very different.”

José Teunissen from ArtEZ where Viktor & Rolf trained, also said she loved what she saw, particularly the obvious research that went into the silhouettes, shapes and patterns. “It reminded me of early Viktor & Rolf where they took 19th century gowns and destroyed them,” she says.

Teunissen also mentions the difficulty Viktor & Rolf face due to their seemingly mixed-up aesthetics. “They really do love classical and glamorous gowns,” she says, “so they do avant-garde clothes with no avant-garde aesthetic at the base. It does make it difficult for people to understand, especially the media. With Martin Margiela or Comme des Garçons the edginess is always there. It's much much harder to introduce concepts and strange effects to more classical clothing.”

The general consensus (except for a particularly grumpy Susie Menkes) is that this show marks a come-back of sorts for the Dutch design duo. Not that they have been in any sort of slump, but it seems to have taken a few seasons for them to get back on track after selling a majority shareholding of their company to Renzo Rosso in July 2008.

“It’s tough,” says Teunissen. “A new backer means getting used to producing in a different way with all different people. The fabrics may have gotten even better, but it’s just a whole different dynamic with different compromises.”

But Smeets doesn’t want to call it a come-back. “They are huge talents with a very original view on life and how this world works,” he says. “Over and over again they have proved that they can turn their moods into fashion, and an artist always has his moments. There are always going to be times when you are working well but getting less attention. I think this show brings them to many people’s attention and I hope that Nynke and I helped with that. And if we did, then it wasn’t some sort of marketing plan. What we did comes from our gut and it came from their gut too.”


See part I of the runway show here and Part II here.

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