Should anyone have the idea that today's models are a limp and weedy bunch, they might take a look at what they had to put up with—literally—at Viktor & Rolf. First, the girls had to shoulder heavy steel rigs, further weighed down with tungsten lights and speakers, some of them built up high above their heads. Then, unable to bend or use their arms to balance, they were asked to walk the runway wearing giant, clunky high-heeled Dutch wooden clogs. As the rigs got bigger and the girls' expressions more frozen with fear, involuntary gasps escaped from the audience. "Oh my God, she's listing!" hissed one observer. "I can't look!" cried another. "That poor girl's slipping!" shrieked someone else.

By pure luck, no one did fall, and when the applause came, Viktor & Rolf may not have realized it was all for the models' heroic endurance, rather than for them. The mild-mannered and scrupulously polite Horsting and Snoeren can hardly be suspected of being closet sadists, but in this case their concept crossed over into cruelty. At the end, if they'd come out rigged up themselves—in clogs—they might have gotten away with it, but whatever point they were (perhaps) making about how each of us walks through life in her own imaginary fashion show, it couldn't override the discomfort of the spectacle. Worse, no one was talking about the clothes as they left the show. In fact, they were inspired by Dutch folk costume: tapestries, checks, and pure white buttoned-up blouses, with a smattering of basic sportswear corduroy cropped pants in between. There was also something in the way that some of the skirts and evening dresses were hooked to the rigs that seemed fleetingly reminiscent of the manner in which costume dolls are pinned into packaging in souvenir shops. Unfortunately, though, it's almost impossible to concentrate on finer points like that when you're anxious that a young woman might be about to break her neck in front of you.