"Sustainable" has become a desirable adjective in the fashion industry, though we mainly got used to hear it in conjunction with fast fashion and high street retailers trying to clean up their acts and produce collections that protect rather than damage our planet. Yet you can try and aim for sustainability also in Haute Couture as Dutch duo Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren proved on Wednesday in Paris.
On the couture runways you usually see a historical maison being revamped by a creative director moving from its archives and designing something new, but V&R opted instead to recreate entirely new pieces by savaging their own previous collections.
Most fashion designers are a bit like hoarders as they tend to store bits and pieces of leftover fabrics, buttons and other random haberdashery stocks in case they may turn handy one day.
V&R moved from what they had in their stock, taking some leftover sequins from the collection that won them the Hyères festival in 1993, adding bits and pieces from their "Blue Screen" and "Red Carpet" collections, without forgetting the wax-dyed floral textiles from their S/S 2015 "Van Gogh" show, and throwing in the mix tons of buttons.
Fabrics were shredded into strips and then woven into vintage trenchcoats, military and denim jackets, tops and dresses; sweatshirts with prominent logos of Puma or Coca-Cola were reinvented, and in some cases the original brand became barely visible under the buttons or the fabric strips.
Highly dense clusters of buttons, crystals, sequins, and scraps covered the sleeves of military coats and jackets or were used to decorate rectangular patches on trousers rescued from V&R's now defunct Monsieur men's label.
Waves of tulle, at times in degrades shades, were integrated into tops and employed to create jutting ruffles that gradually turned into exaggerated waves engulfing models.
Revolving around three main processes - aggregation, accumulation and collage - the show closed with a series of full-skirted ballgowns.
There were also a few white gowns that, rather than fitting into this Haute Couture collection, anticipated Viktor & Rolf's next venture, a collection of wedding dresses in conjunction with Justin Alexander that will debut in October during New York Bridal Week.
The ensembles were matched with crumpled top hats for a final rag to riches effect that gave this collection as sort of "Gelsomina out of Fellini's La strada-meets-Oliver Twist and the Mad Hatter" edge.
The collection may have been a disastrous attempt for V&R at recycling their own selves, but this exercise in destroying pieces from their archive as chronicled in a brief video posted on their Instagram page was a way to ponder over the past, rescue elements from previous collections and rework them in convincing ways.
In the past few years Margiela's Artisanal collections proved that you can upcycle rare fabrics, but also combs, mirrors and tinsel ornaments to make unique creations, so there is nothing new in what V&R are suggesting here. Besides, buttons – Judy Blame docet – have always been a simple yet effective way to renew a garment or making the old look extraordinary.
But this archaeological analysis of the past - emphasized by the soundtrack, American folk singer Linda Perhacs, a little known artist who recently found new fame when her 1970 album "Parallelograms" was rediscovered - actually produced new and desirable pieces, reminding us about the great possibilities of fashion and of making things at home.
The fun of this collection is therefore not in the collection per se (after all, how many of us will be able to afford it?), but in trying to recreate at home some of these techniques, taking them even further.
While there were no direct references to art, paintings or abstract conceptualisms as in previous collections, here there was a reminder to all fashion fans that you don't have to call Marie Kondo, the creator of the KonMari Method, to declutter your house and throw everything out, since at times a pair of scissors, a needle, threads and lots of button are enough to deconstruct your wardrobe and reconstruct it in a fun way, turning your improbable and out of fashion past into a wearable and trendy future.
And if for the time being you don't feel like destroying your wardrobe, well, you can still take part in a V&R collage competition: create your own collage using images from the Viktor&Rolf archive, and submit your entry on Instagram by tagging #CollageCouture and #ViktorandRolfCouture (until midnight July 15th CET) for your chance to win a piece from the V&R archive.
Feel uninspired? Check out the Instagram page of Adam Hale, a collage artist better known for his Daily Splice account in which he posts handmade collages created employing precisely cut and humorously assembled bits and piece from London's free magazines. Hale has also collaborated with V&R on this collection creating for the duo surreal collages à la Linder Sterling.
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