PFW: VIKTOR & ROLF F/W 2014

This, apparently, is the day for dramatic openings. So, follow me, if you can, on this one.

The scene is a street, complete with dotted line down the middle. The street is dark with two street lamps providing only limited illumination. In the distant, a person approaches through the shadows, her figure silhouetted by the street lamps. Clad in loose-fitting slacks and a vest, she’s carrying a guitar. She tops under one of the street lamps and softly begins to play as the lights come up and the first model appears in the middle of the road.

The guitarist is Joan Wasser, aka Joan as Police Woman, an indie singer-songwriter currently residing in New York. As she continues playing, models bring out look after look, majoring in asphalt grey, and there are audible gasps of “ooh” and “ahh” especially along the front row as each model passes.

There’s a good reason for the astonishment, as what one sees coming down the runway is not always the same design one sees as it goes back the other direction. Take, for example, the first look. The one-piece cashmere knit dress comes down the runway looking like the fairly typical A-line dress with an asymmetrical hem. And then she turns around and one suddenly realizes … uhm … hey guys, you forgot to put a back on this dress! Actually, what they’ve done is lift the hem in the back all the way up above the hips! The model was wearing a pair of black shorts, but come autumn one is probably going to want something a tiny bit less drafty.

And so it went through the collection, not that the duo kept leaving the seat out of their britches, so to speak, but there was a lot of playful maneuvering of hems and lines along non-traditional lines. Where a piece would be long, it would go almost to the ankle. Where it was short, the line typically came just below the waist. Sometimes the line was in front, where it almost seemed to get in the way, but more often it was at the side, where it actually did a wonderful job of visually highlighting a woman’s shape.

Throughout the collection,  the guys use prints and non-traditional cuts to create illusions, primarily the illusion that there is layering where none exists. So, what appears to be a layered racer-T under a shift dress ends up not being two pieces, but one. A grey shorts jumper over a longer sheer jumper with a faux bra between? Yeah, all one printed piece, and the back is solid grey. There is, toward the end of the collection, even a column dress … that’s not. Print again.

For all the visual slight-of-hand going on, there are some incredible pieces, especially in knits, that one is going to insist on having. There’s one … uhm … shall we try to call it a sweater dress? Okay, this knit sweater dress is one of those pieces that runs long on the left leg and then curves beautifully up to the waist on the right. The model here is wearing a black leather mini, which looks great, but one could just as easily pair most any slack or jeans with it. Or, oh, what about a pair of those thigh-high boots we’ve been seeing all over the place? Do you see how these pieces can just make one’s wardrobe explode with choices?

Now, one does well to remember that the Belgian designers are, for the most part, minimalists and their tops especially tend to run very full, with padded, rounded shoulders and roomy sleeves. That aspect of their work hasn’t changed a bit. As we get toward the end of the collection, some of the looks almost seem a wee bit traditional, but there are some jackets there, especially in leather and black velvet, that will make your mouth water with desire.

Viktor & Rolf have created a very fun and unique collection that is surprisingly wearable. These are real wardrobe extending pieces that, despite their price tag, probably end up saving you money.

Oh, and the end of the show? Models make the finale walk as Joan sings the most subtle and laid back version of Highway to Hell I’ve ever heard. Nice touch, guys. Really nice touch.

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