Here's what fashion people expect of a Viktor & Rolf show: surreal twists on convention and mind-bending sculptural exaggerations of normal clothing, ending in a crescendo of all-out applause for the quiet genius of the straight-faced Dutch duo. In a week when the two have celebrated their ten-year collaboration with an exhibition of their impressive body of work at the Musée de la Mode, the anticipation of the Spring show was ratcheted even higher than usual.
Strangely, though, this collection somehow failed to rise to the occasion. The well-established signaturesmasculine/feminine tailoring, denims, and details like big, overblown bowsranged the runway in many variations, but a high concept never quite materialized. A lot of audience second-guessing went on as the show progressed. Was this Viktor & Rolf's statement of post-conceptual commerciality? Were all the big white shirts and softened shapes their new ironic take on bourgeois ordinariness? If so, many of the pieces were rather too literally banal to jolt a reaction.
The designers' eveningwear picked up strength, with versions of tuxedo jackets cut so as to hang off the shoulder (a dangling motif that is recurring throughout the Spring collections). More promising still were the interpretations of grand 1950's tulle evening gowns, their skirts morphed onto men's dinner suits. At a time when young avant-garde designers are reinvestigating the beauty of traditional Parisian couture, that was a tantalizing contribution to the season. But it left Viktor & Rolf's fans longing for more.