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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

The House of Viktor & Rolf

Barbican, 18 June - 21 Sept, 2008

Written by Matt Bramford

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This month, physician more about daydreams can be dedicated to Loulou Androlia. At 27, the Camden based designer has tumbled, head first into her own Alice in Wonderland fairytale.
Just last month, Loulou Loves You, was just another great, one-woman DIY design outfit, with Loulou cutting and crafting her way round the indie e-shop block. Her handmade lingerie and giant silk hairbows won her fans and friends aplenty across the usual social networking sites, but it wasn’t until she was contacted by Agent Provocateur, wanting to use her bows in their current window display, that things really started to get curious.

“The June windows were to have an Alice in Wonderland theme,” explains Androlia. “I think a quick Google search revealed my designs and so the lovely lady from display at Agent Provocateur got in touch.”

Testament to the powers of the Internet, Loulou then wasted no time in fashioning up a series of her oversized, surrealist bows fit for the fashion worlds most notorious window display designers.

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Babydoll colourways. Cartoon Proportions. Salacious Silk. These creations were never going to look out of place amidst the forthright, frilly and downright fabulous subtext of Agent Provocateur’s own, renowned, window display drill. And now Agent Provocateur stores from London to Los Angeles will have their windows adorned with Loulou’s playful accessories.

While the Alice in Wonderland theme continues to conjure up contradictory readings around rule breaking and reality, Loulou’s designs symbolise carefree, childlike charm, albeit with a slightly naughty, Lolita edge. Androlia admits her designs being featured in Agent Provocateur’s latest display is her biggest project to date.

“It’s just been really exciting. More people than ever are starting to recognize what I do, and recently stylists have picked up on my work for use in photo shoots” she says.

Loulou’s designs offer a modern mix of fantasy and parody. Her story offers the perfect anecdote to another season of celebrity infested clothing lines and copycat creations. Still she remains indebted to the independent design roots that led Agent Provocateur to find her in the first place.

“I get a real buzz out of discovering a tiny e-shop that might be run from another home thousands of miles away,” she says, clearly excited at the possibility of finding the next Christopher Kane in his bedroom, stitching and sewing his way to fashion superstardom, via an online universe.

Quirky and Curious. Loulou Androlia. She’s just like Alice after all.
Last week I popped into transition gallery in east London to view FAN FAIR. Being somewhat of a disaster with map reading and directions in general, tadalafil I was surprised to find that I found the exhibition space relatively quickly.
On entering the exhibition room, information pills which was relatively small, price I was immediately struck by the frivolity of seaside pleasures. The pastel colours of folded hankies hanging from a wall, a candy walking stick, letters, a shed with a mystic inside, painted skittles, metal scuba-diving head and deviant helter skelter made for a varied showcase. The handkerchiefs, knitted in cutesy pink colours you can only imagine being made by your nan, were pieces with a rather anti-cutesy message! One read, ‘Cum inside/ Candy floss/only £1.00/adults only.’ Fun and fruity messages continued.
The helter skelter was made from stolen road signs, fairie lights, vintage flags, treasure chests, lobster figurines and little toy figures probably picked from charity shops and car boot sales. Crowned with a disco ball; this all made for a cluttered, wonderful assortment of the fantastical and perverted. Barbie dolls in playgirl positions, blowjobs by ken dolls, ‘alcohol restriction zone’ signs, a ship floating in an imagined journey through air; this all reminded me of the drunken pleasures of a 15 year old on alcopops (although probably a bit more risqué)!
Intricately painted ceramic skittles altered the intoxicated landscape of excess with a rather muted addition. The painted flowers had an oldsy feel like those found in 1950s agriculture magazines.
The ‘deep sea diver’ statue painted gold and turquoise felt almost too solid compared to the other fantastical musings. However, the bold colours and rigid reluctance to fade into the background made me think of arbitrary images from dreams that randomly peep into focus.
Next door to this stood a walking stick made of pink rock. I couldn’t help but wonder that maybe these should be a new invention for those that need sugar rushes on journeys (just imagine all those granddads on buses licking their walking sticks- A strange sight indeed)! As part of the piece, there were postcards from two corresponding artists in the transition group. They contained ideas for the collaboration, which were written months ago. One postcard was scrawled with, ‘I’d really like to discuss working with you…Filling the gallery with home made seaside ephemera. Snow domes, sticks of pink rock, postcards. Totally bespoken horse shite’- (nice to see a humble account of their work)!
Last stop was to enter the mystical shed where the virtual Madam Sosostris lay in wait. On entering the small enclosure I realised Madam S was reading cards from a TV set. With a pack of tarot cards in front of me she told me to start dealing. Not one to mess with a virtual mystic on a TV set; I did what I was told. I ended up with a card that said something about being more brave and taking more chances, but I was just relieved I didn’t get the death card!
FAN FAIR took about 15 minutes to view merely because it is such a small space. Yet I’d recommend it for those who want a serving of seaside fantasy with the supernatural; and you even get a session with your very own virtual mystic!

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Last Saturday, cheapest my friend and I ventured to Tate Modern for the raw canvas ‘Tate Takeover: London Calling’ in the café level 2. With a flyer that promised performances from Poeticat and ORIGAMI as well as ‘cellar door sound, magic, charly flynn, illustrations and more..’ we had high expectations.
Arriving to find my friend making friends with a cat near the entrance of the Tate (I was late- he is sane, I promise), we made our way in. Having sauntered in an hour into closing time we were a tad confused to see people on the floor making boats out of newspaper. Most of people were involved in making houses and other creative masterpieces. So, sitting down on beanbags we decided to attempt a hat. But alas our arty skills were thwarted by the fact that neither of us are any good at origami-but we did enjoy looking at others like fascinated kids at the zoo.
The next room had a guy painting a black and white landscape that he was absorbed in. The main café/bar area also had a live performance from Poeticat who we listened to whilst chatting. The ambiance was chilled and the people who sat around were mostly young people who were obviously friends of the raw canvas team. But the event was inclusive and had a mixture of people and age groups involved.
The evening was certainly ‘raw’ with excitement and a blank ‘canvas’ for ideas to be penned, inspiring young people back into art. My friend and I certainly enjoyed the laid back arty evening. Here’s to the next one.

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Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeron, approved aka Viktor & Rolf, ampoule got skills. This summer sees the highly acclaimed fashion designers present their entire time together in an exhibition at the Barbican, and what an exhibition it is.

It’s rare that fashion designers present their collections in galleries – since Vivienne Westwood’s retrospective at the V&A in 2004, there has been little to celebrate the makers of fashion as we know it – especially on this grand scale.

The exhibiton showcases their work from humble beginnings in 1993, when the pair launched their first collection, aptly titled ‘Launch’ – to varying acclaim. Never to follow the norm, the duo presented this collection entirely in minature – with models (of the replica sense) of a catwalk show, the pieces they had designed and even the simultaneous advertising campaigns.

It seems, then, that V&R have come full circle, presenting to us here their collections in their stunning lifesize glory AND in model replica. On Level 3 of the Barbican (the one with rooms spanning from the balcony), you might think that this exhibition space had been purpose built to display fashion collections, but this is not the case. Thanks to exhibition designer Siebe Tettero and the ready state of this 1960s brutalist masterpiece of a building, the space has been transformed to allow viewers to freely move between collections. The centrepiece of the show is a stunning three storey Georgian doll’s house which fills the centre of the room. Each room in the house has no exterior wall, and has a different doll of about 1 or 2 feet tall, wearing an exact replica of dresses from each collection. Incredible. Silver binoculars are provided to view the detail of the pieces from the viewing platforms. The V&R emblem is brandished (no pun intended) at the top of the house, and some of the dolls even look longingly in the direction of their life size counterparts.

On Thursdays, as part of the Lates season of late night art events, the Barbican presents different workshops and talks about matters surrounding the duo and fashion in general. The first featured talks about themes in the collections, and I had the enviable pleasure of meeting Emma Cammack, a body artist who had been commissioned to produce two bodies based on themes from V&R’s collections. Emma has worked for a variety of high profile clients in advertising, fashion and film, and it was a joy to see the models come to life.

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Highlights from the exhibition, in no particular order, include: Flowerbomb (SS05) which tied with the launch of the duo’s first fragrance. Black chiffon dresses with bow details and black bicycle helmets were presented on the catwalk, with the models stalling at the back of the stage. When all models had taken their turn, the stage revolved to reveal an almost identical collection but in baby pink. Following this stunning piece of theatre was never going to be easy, but then came Bedtime Story (AW05-06) where V&R took the bed to the catwalk, with the infamous mix of duvets and sheets. Duvets became extravangant dresses with ‘I love you’ spralled across, mostly in white with red defining features. The collection relies on quilted fabrics and takes on board old bed linen processes such as broderie anglais, a specific type of stitch.

The most stunning aspect of the exhibition is the realisation that Viktor & Rolf are capable of concept after concept, and no two seasons are the same. The ‘One Woman Show’ collection of AW03-04 is the work of geniuses. After a chance meeting with actress Tilda Swinton, the pair were so enthralled by her presence at unique style that they devoted an entire collection to her – with even the models made to have her stark, androgynous appearance. Sharp tailored suits emphasising and advancing the human form were presented to reflect the theme of androgyny. This is the complete opposite of the very feminine ‘Silver’ collection of AW06-07, featuring more feminine shapes like the Dior silhouette popularised by the New Look collection of the fifties (low busts, small waists and large skirts). nude lycra tulle number with oversized embroidered stars shows the designer duo’s ability to challenge fashion norms.

And if that wasn’t enough to make you gush with envy or start saving for the ‘I Love You’ wedding dress, take the ‘The Fashion Show’ collection of AW07-08. V&R make the model a walking fashion entity – they each have their own outfit (featuring traditional Dutch checks and pleats with a contemporary twist), lighting (the models wear scaffolding above their heads, rigged with lights, which presents the silhouette of a ancestral Dutch milk maiden) and music (said rigs were fitted with individual music systems, and speakers). This metal structure not only provides the support for sound and light, but on a more artistic scale enhances the silhoutette and modifies the human form we are accustomed to – a key theme throughout V&R’s luminescent history.

Viktor and Rolf’s first UK exhibition is an inspirational tour of their illustrious history, even for those not overtly interested in fashion. So switly decide between your nude tulle number or your duvet, brush your hair over a pillow, pick out your favourite clogs, and head down to the Barbican for what might be the best fashion exhibition we get in 2008.

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2 Responses to “The House of Viktor & Rolf”

  1. Sarah says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever been so deeply affected by a -sorry to say it- ‘mere’ fashion exhibition. Viktor and Rolf are the highest conceptual art I’ve seen in a long time. Their work is not easy to look at, these are no frilly lifeless beauties. This stuff has guts and demands thought and a reaction.

    Sometimes it’s so beyond ridiculous (the ‘russian doll collection’ where the model is swallowed by ever growing capes, for example)that you know comedy satirists would have a field day…but Viktor and Rolf seem deadly serious, making it all the more unnerving.

    I felt so sorry for the models involved in the ‘Fashion Show’ collection – heavy rigging attached to their shoulders and having to strut in the least safe shoes I’ve ever seen! But for V&R, the art takes precedence over everything.

    I was so glad I saw this exhibit at the Barbican. I left feeling mystified, enchanted and down right wierded out… but ultimately hungry for more.

  2. [...] exhibition is free, which should have been a sign it wasn’t going to match up to the epic Victor and Rolf exhibition at the Barbican way back in 2008. Based on the coffee-table tome published by Rizzoli, the show is basically an [...]

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