The ongoing problem with Viktor & Rolf is the way their art gets in the way of their craft. So it was with a sinking sensation that one received the duo's declaration that their Resort collection was inspired by Cindy, Barbie's cooler, couture-y rival.
Dolls have been a good-luck charm for V & R in the past. Some of their most memorable presentations have been constructed around dressing and undressing motionless models as though they were playthings. At least it's made for some great performance art, and, in the case of the designers' dollhouse exhibition in London in 2008, something that was maybe even more elevated than that. But here, as the designers talked about using the proportions of a doll (short upper body, constricted waist) and the conventions of a doll's clothing (exaggerated stitches, nothing ironed, because the clothes are too small to press), the concept felt too fetishistically arch for its own good.
But surprise, surprise, the clothes themselves defused such reservations. Instead of coming on too creepy for primetime, Cindy's closet yielded a collection that felt fresh for V & R, even when the doll references were as blatant as a floor-sweeping tie-dyed hostess skirt, or high-waisted pants in a denim blue, or a sleeveless jumpsuit in the same shade. A doll's denims were always problematic, stiffed and over-stitched and the embodiment of everything "groovy" that corporate toymakers were trying desperately to co-opt. But V & R created denim-look pieces in jacquard and silk linen, or even printed as snakeskin on a leather blouson, that looked positively chic. And the collection's signature mustard yellow (a color that always looked better against molded plastic than real human skin) came across as glamorous gold when offered as a trench in duchesse.
The trench being a V & R signature piece, the designers offered a capsule of four styles, including ruffled and caped, that managed an appealing hybrid of the classic and the contrived. No mean feat!