In a previous post we looked at the potential of paper as a Haute Couture material in connection with sets and hairstyles and mentioned Stephen Foster's relief figure workshops at Glasgow's Museum/Research Centre The World Through Wooden Eyes.
As Foster explains on the Research Centre Facebook page about his paper relief portrait workshops, "Paper sculpture has been used in advertising, shop displays and theatre for years". His words and teachings about paper sculpture came to mind yesterday while looking at the models on Viktor & Rolf's runway (or maybe the design duo has been reading our musings on paper sculptures or maybe they attended a course by Stephen Foster?).
The Dutch designers have consistently been experimenting with the art world and in particular with paintings for the last few seasons: their S/S 2015 collection featured garments that echoed Vincent van Gogh's paintings of wheat fields such as "Wheat Stacks with Reaper" , "Sheaves of Wheat" or "Wheat Field with Crows".
In their A/W 2015 collection they literally wrapped up their models in framed paintings that included "The Threatened Swan" by Jan Asselijn, "Venus and Adonis" by Ferdinand Bol and "Girl in a Large Hat" by Caesar Boëtius van Everdingen; the designs were later bought by private collectors and major art museums.
For the Spring/Summer 2016 season the design duo returned to a blank canvas or rather to a clean sheet of paper. Models were transformed once again into works of art, though at times the transformation was a real metamorphosis that erased their faces and bodies and incorporated them into totemic structures.
The designs were indeed a combination between a white shirt, a healthy dose of Surrealism and several Cubist portraits and ended up looking like paper relief portraits. Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren dubbed their pieces "performances of sculpture".
White shirts, polos and dresses gradually acquired eyes, lips, noses, hair and hands. Banal hemlines of plain white dresses were turned into chins; necklines were curved to resemble foreheads, rebellious curls jutted out from shoulders, together with stiff bows and ruffles.
As things got gradually more complicated and rather bizarre, models became assemblages of faces, assorted mask-like formations in which it was possible to spot art references to Juan Gris, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso's papiers collés, but also to Picasso's portraits of young girls and of Dora Maar such as "Le Chandail Jaune" (The Yellow Jersey), and fashion hints at Capucci's gowns with spirals of pleated ruffles around them (View this photo) that also incorporated jersey covered fiberglass masks (View this photo; this wouldn't be the first time V&R moved from a Capucci inspiration...).
If you ever tried creating a paper relief sculpture or portrait, you know that it's the pattern that counts and it's the way you anchor the various pieces to your support base and background that finally forms a perfectly three-dimensional silhouette capable of highlighting several details.
In a similar way, patterns were a key element of this collection: you can indeed just imagine how intricate and complicated must have been to create specific angles, ruffles and facial elements that then formed a sculpted mask on a dress.
The choice of a completely white palette allowed the designers to create the illusion of marble, an inspiration they already employed for their A/W 2009 ready-to-wear collection that, as you may remember, featured references to classical statues.
Yet, aside from the final pieces that gave the show a Carnivalesque touch (well, Carnival is almost here after all...), and some costumy moments that may have got you wondering if V&R were thinking of working on a Cubist re-edition of an animated painting à la Jean Dubuffet's Coucou Bazar, there were actually some wearable pieces. Though Horsting and Snoeren left behind ready-to-wear to focus on fragrances and couture, from Saturday on a limited edition capsule collection of 100 tops and tunics (in a palette comprising white and black as well) derived from this collection will be available for order (deliver in March) at Moda Operandi.
These performing sculptures may therefore end up walking into the wardrobe of those ones who may be able to afford them (polos will be around 800 euros; dresses up to 2,800 euros). Yet, while ready-to-wear-able art is finally a reality for those who can buy into that, if you belong to the rest of the world, you can still learn a skill and maybe focus on how to make paper sculptures, sets and portraits (check out further events scheduled at The World Through Wooden Eyes Research Centre): you may not be able to buy an arty piece, but you may discover how to make it in paper and then transfer your knowledge onto fabric. After all, that's how Viktor & Rolf did it.
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