‘Casa’ Viktor & Rolf for Vogue Living Australia

It’s always a pleasure to work with interior photographer Kasia Gatkowska. For Vogue Living Australia we did a production on Viktor & Rolf’s amazing offices in Amsterdam, which was later re-placed in the Portuguese edition of Vogue.

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The editor at Vogue Living Australia severely simplified my article, hence I insist on publishing the original version right here >>

It took several years, and the help of a shaman, for Dutch fashion artists Viktor & Rolf to conquer their imposing office; a seventeenth century former mayor’s residence, famously situated in the ‘Golden Bend’ of one of Amsterdam’s oldest canals.

Now, some eight years after Viktor & Rolf moved in with their staff, they managed to clear the dusty air of past centuries by respectfully, and confidently, fitting in. The impressive seven window (60 foot) wide façade with stately stairs leading up to the Doric-style entrance belongs to the once wealthiest part of this ‘Gentlemen’s Canal’, immortalized in Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde’s famous ‘Golden Bend’ painting, to be admired at a stone’s throw from the actual site, at the Rijksmuseum.

We are welcomed on the first floor with its elegant reception hallway, a large style chamber serving as boardroom annex showroom, and a meeting room overlooking the house’s most delightful treasure; a deep ornamental garden. The Empire-windows, impressive relief ceilings and walls – a virtuous Prudentia (Prudence) is literally looking over those lingering in the entrance, waiting for the lords of the house to receive them -, marble floors and panelling, fancy woodwork including the original family weaponry and impressively detailed red and white marble shines, much of the house’s 18th century redo in Louis XIV style is still there and in pretty much pristine condition too. At the front end of the corridor, a stately staircase lined with photographs of Viktor & Rolf’s career highlights, leads the eye to a large window behind which a massive golden V&R seal emphasises the myth of this long time fashion duo, as none other than staff members are allowed up there where their artful work is conceived and created, now that they are back at doing couture and perfume.

As Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren descend to meet us, there is no sense of Chanel-esque elevation, on the contrary. Other than their meticulously executed, conscientiously conceptual work would suggest, the two are as down to earth, open and relaxed as they get in the higher regions of the fashion arena. They’ve been best friends for the biggest part of their lives and it has been quite the rollercoaster. “We pretty much grew up together post puberty,” says Rolf. “When we met in art school we felt inspired by each other’s work. And I guess we were aspiring to the same adventure, and so we became close friends”, adds Viktor. Thinking back to those earliest days they conclude that they never actually decided to start a fashion label or any business together. “We just started working together and have continued doing so until this day.” Viktor and Rolf became Viktor & Rolf when they swept up all three major prizes at the influential international post grad fashion contest in Hyeres in the South of France in 1993. And that was that.

In the case of Viktor & Rolf it is safe to squeeze in the definition ‘art’ next to the fashion. With their shared artistic ambition to put something out there other than the style of the season, something more ‘meta-level’, they have been captivating their audience for a quarter decade. With their oeuvre crowded with bizarrely iconic looks, what fashion week attendees cherish even more are the memories of their performances. From the F/W 1999 ‘Russian Doll’ couture project where they dressed a statuesque Maggie Rizer in nine heavily jewel encrusted layers to the most recent F/W 2015 performance where they channelled the fashion equals art idea quite literally, dressing their models in framed paintings. For the record, Viktor and Rolf don’t like performing on stage. But they simply must obey to the idea once it has popped up like the proverbial light bulb over their heads, and they simply can’t help but pitting somewhat recalcitrant statements out there.

The house, in all its monumental grandeur and historical standing, suits Viktor & Rolf marvellously well. Once inside, it is welcoming and the atmosphere is as restrained as it is intimate and open to big and wild ideas. “Make up”, says Rolf, asked what is left to wish for, subtle flames in his eyes.

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