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Viktor & Rolf: If you’re in this business, chances are you believe in fashion’s intrinsic ability to transform. Waifish refugee turns supermodel. Country bumpkin, superstylist. Boy with a Barbie and a dream, The Next Big Thing. But can two of the most high-minded thinkers to drape a dress since the Japanese hit Paris transform their insider élan — and infinitesimal business — into a megahit at the fragrance bar?

Those two little designing engines Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren think they can. They think they can, and more importantly, so does that behemoth machine L’Oréal. Its latest entrant into the ever-expanding game of designer scents roulette, Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb, had its official launch at a wild extravaganza of a fashion show at Le Jardin des Tuileries on Wednesday. The event, complete with Penn-like model vignettes, pyrotechnics (hello, the bomb in Flowerbomb) and enough ribbon for 1,000 Christmases, was all about transformation. On the runway, that meant the shift from an army of ultraglam, black-clad lean-and-meaners, high-gloss helmets obscuring their faces and maybe a secret S&M trick or two up their fancy sleeves to a garden variety of pink ladies, intriguing on many levels, not the least of which was that, for all their flora, bows and blush-ability, they looked sophisticated. Often, this attitude came in the manner of the haute, haute days of old, its grandeur of construction flying in the face of mundane modernity with assorted accoutrements — any takers for full-body bows? — too cumbersome for all forms of life beyond an ad campaign. But then, that was the point, at least in part, and many in the audience lapped it up. Others found the whole thing irritating, an elaborate foray into unrepentant fragrance-pushing propaganda in fashion-show trappings, and cheesy, to boot.

Certainly regarding the clothes, one could miss the forest for the bows. But in fact, in the midst of it all, Snoeren and Horsting offered up a wealth of chic reality. Happily, as always, their execution lived up to their magnificence of concept, starting with the tailoring: stark tuxedo, round-shouldered trench, safari jacket with antithetical streamers swirling down its sleeves. The designers went soft just as easily in gentle dresses and blouses inset with lace, and casual (sort of) in khaki walking shorts and a camisole graced with a giant hydrangea corsage. Evening ranged from discreet glamour to enchantment to let’s-show-off-how-good-we-are costumery.

This story first appeared in the October 7, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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On its own, this is a collection for editors to swoon over, and from which tony retailers will hone in on the sensible stuff. But as for volume potential — it’s only big in bows. Spritz on a scent with major distribution, however, and suddenly the clothes fuel the dreams that drive women to the fragrance counter. Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.