Dutch design duo Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren of Viktor & Rolf are to launch a retrospective exhibition at Shenzhen’s Sea World Culture and Arts Center in collaboration with the city’s Design Society, running from April 29 to Oct. 8.
Curated by Pooky Lee and designed by Nathalie Crinière, the retrospective — titled “Viktor & Rolf: MetaFashion!” — will feature up to 80 looks from the brand’s haute couture collections; photography works by Arthur Elgort, Greg Kadel, Chen Man, and Ellen von Unwerth, and 24 sets of miniature fashion dolls wearing iconic looks from the brand.
Highlights in the exhibition, which is divided into eight sections, include pieces from the spring 2015 haute couture collection inspired by Van Gogh’s paintings; slogan-themed gowns from the spring 2019 haute couture collection, and sustainability-minded creations from the spring 2017 “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and spring 2018 “Surreal Satin” couture collections.
The title of the exhibition, “MetaFashion,” was taken from a 1995 Artforum magazine review by Olivier Zahm, in which he wrote: “Viktor & Rolf’s fashion, or better metafashion, amounts to a conceptual exercise in reconstruction.”
Zhao Rong, the director of Design Society, hopes that Chinese visitors, who have not been able to travel due to strict border controls, can gain a new understanding and appreciation of the fashion industry and cultures through the retrospective.
“The 1990s is historically the golden age of the fashion avant-garde, and Viktor & Rolf are certainly icons from the era. Their high fashion creations from the late ’90s to the 2000s, including the collections ‘Russian Dolls’ and ‘Bells,’ expanded our understanding of tradition, clothing and the body, and added a lot of depth and imagination to unlocking intuition, individuality and the ability to make a statement.
“I admire their ability to continue this creative energy, subtly countering trends, departing from the rules in deconstruction and reorganization, while consistently returning to the essentials,” Rong said.
Lee, the show’s curator, added: “Viktor & Rolf occupies a unique place in the history of fashion. Their work has always been a way of making clever commentaries on fashion through creating new fashions, greatly expanding the public’s perception of fashion as a key visual art genre and identity.
“I have always been dreaming of curating an exhibition on Viktor & Rolf in a thematic curatorial approach, which is different from their previous exhibition history that was mostly organized chronologically. Working with Design Society gave me an opportunity to unfold the nearly 30-year-long career of Viktor & Rolf and create new dialogues between works of different periods, which are connected through a series of clues and references, therefore the visitors have a more thorough understanding of Viktor & Rolf’s genius,” he told WWD.
Horsting and Snoeren said they are excited to invite the audience to step and delve into their “creative cosmos.”
“Our first encounter with fashion was through the lens of fragrance advertising. A wider admiration for fashion followed shortly after. We were enthralled by the sense of mystery and dreamy escape fashion provided to our suburban lives. This sense of mystery shaped our notion of fashion and remained an important touchstone in our work. The exhibition is filled with this notion,” the duo added.
The retrospective marks the first time that the brand, now owned by OTB Group, is staging a major cultural event in Asia, as well as in China, the world’s largest luxury market.
According to OTB’s ambitious plan for the 2022 to 2024 period revealed earlier this year, the group is determined to raise its profile in key markets such as the U.S. and the Asia Pacific region, and China in particular.
In China, OTB, which also owns Marni, Maison Margiela, Jil Sander, and is a minority stakeholder in Amiri, has 80 stores in 16 cities, and the number is destined to double in the next three years.
Later this year, the Italian fashion group will open a major retail development project in Shanghai’s JC Plaza mall, located on Nanjing Road. The four street-front, two-floor stores will house the labels Maison Margiela, Jil Sander, Marni and Amiri, and include exhibition spaces and interactive areas.
In 2019, a year after OTB Group raised its stake in Viktor & Rolf from 51 percent to 70 percent, the Dutch brand named Chinese actor Xu Weizhou its first brand ambassador.
At the time, Viktor & Rolf had a very selective presence in China. Its bridal collection was sold only through Nora Reve Bridal in Beijing, Chengdu, Shenyang and Shanghai, and it had no e-commerce presence for its fragrance and lingerie products.
As of now, the brand’s ready-to-wear collection is available on marketplaces like Farfetch China and it has launched an official fragrance store on Tmall with a social media presence on WeChat, Xiahongshu and Douyin.
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