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Viktor & Rolf Returning to Couture

The Dutch design duo has been elected correspondent member of the Paris couture calendar.

PARIS — As they prepare to celebrate their 20th anniversary in fashion, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren are harking back to their conceptual roots.

This story first appeared in the April 23, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Viktor & Rolf will return to the Paris haute couture calendar in July after a 13-year absence. The Chambre Syndicale, French fashion’s governing body, named the label a correspondent member of the couture calendar at a meeting of its management committee on Friday.

Horsting said the Dutch design duo would be coming back with a runway show that would celebrate the poetic and artistic dimension of fashion.

“Returning to couture now, on our 20th anniversary, feels like coming full circle,” he said in an exclusive interview.

Viktor & Rolf showed five couture collections between January 1998 and July 2000, including the Atomic Bomb collection, featuring dramatic mushroom cloud-like cushioned necklines. For the Russian Doll show, the designers dressed model Maggie Rizer in 10 layers of clothes, merging fashion with performance art.

The majority of those pieces were sold to museums and institutions, paving the way for the duo to launch their women’s ready-to-wear collection in 2000, followed by a men’s line in 2003. In 2005, they catapulted into the big league with the launch of Flowerbomb, their first women’s fragrance, in collaboration with L’Oréal.

Three years later, Italian entrepreneur Renzo Rosso took a controlling stake in the label through his holding company OTB SpA, previously known as Only the Brave Srl, heralding a new stage in its development.

Despite this move into the mainstream, Viktor & Rolf maintained their reputation for unconventional catwalk presentations, many featuring live performances by actors and singers, including Tilda Swinton, Rufus Wainwright and Tori Amos.

Horsting noted that over the years, the designers continued to incorporate couture pieces into their rtw displays.

“At a certain point, we started to get the feeling that we would like to separate these messages more, because there was a feeling as if we were trying to communicate two messages in the same show, and for us it didn’t really work anymore,” he added.

He noted that in recent seasons, the label has refocused its rtw shows on solid commercial fare.

“The shows are, let’s say, a little bit more real. It’s just a little bit more about ready-to-wear, but next to that, for us, fashion is so much more than that, so we thought it was a great opportunity to start doing couture again to express the other side of fashion, you know: fashion as a laboratory,” he explained.

Reflecting this repositioning, Viktor & Rolf recently moved into a new showroom in a historic townhouse on the tony Avenue d’Iéna in Paris.

“Our strategy is really to present our brand as a luxury brand for the 21st century, so having this beautiful showroom is part of that, and also focusing ready-to-wear on ready-to-wear, and next to that having couture, is part of that strategy,” he said.

Though Horsting was reluctant to reveal anything further about the upcoming couture show, he said the creations would be for sale this time around. “When you turn 20, it’s like you’re almost an adult, so we feel a certain confidence that goes with that,” he noted.

On a recent visit to the U.S., the duo stopped off in Los Angeles, where they met celebrity stylists with a view to stepping up their red-carpet presence. Top of their wish list right now are Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain (the latter attended their rtw show in Paris in March).

“I think she’s gorgeous and really lovely,” Horsting said of Chastain. “She’s a redhead. We seem to love redheads.”

The designers are also hoping to open a store in Paris, though they have yet to zero in on a location.