Viktor & Rolf are currently the subject of a museum show in London that spotlights their talents as installation artists. It's a huge success, but it has the paradoxical side effect of underscoring just how academic their approach to designing actual clothes for actual people is. And nowhere is this dilemma more acute than with their men's collectionit's always been concept over clothing. V&R's latest idea was Hawaii in the fifties, a time when they felt people had a natural elegance. That wasn't precisely the quality that their bamboo-print shirts, tiki-mask motifs, and faux wood-grain jacquards conveyed, but at least there was a degree of accessibility in such kitschery. Jackets were shorter and roomier, to the point where one was padless and drop-shouldered (not a success). Trousers had a pajama-pant ease.
The ruling notion was easy pieces with embellishment. Think gingham caning on a tuxedo shirt and silk flowers attached like a lei around the neck of another shirt. Chinos were embroidered with little martini glasses, a WASP-y reference that Ralph Lauren might wish he'd thought of. A sky-blue tux jacket with a black satin lapel and a ruffled front harked back to the imaginary Vegas magician who V&R cooked up as a muse several seasons back. (Yikes! He's clearly still on a losing streak.) Slightly more pleasing were the Swarovski-beaded tropical blooms that decorated the lapels and trouser legs of another evening look.