VIKTOR&ROLF CELEBRATE 30 YEARS WITH THE NEW EYEWEAR LINE IN COLLABORATION WITH SPECSAVERS
words by MAREK BARTEK
The past weeks in Amsterdam have been rainy, to say the least. I have stopped counting the amount of times I have arrived at places soaking wet. So when I entered the sun filled Mirror Room at Amstel Hotel, it felt like I entered a different world. The warm light reflecting off the walls, subtle smell of sweet cakes and champagne mixing with the Flowerbomb fragrance that people religiously wear, and all this underlined with the string quartet. For their 30th anniversary celebration, Viktor&Rolf really left nothing to chance. As I walked through the space, I got to explore not only the new eyewear made with Specsavers, but also selected pieces from their iconic “Late Stage Capitalism Waltz” Spring/Summer 2023. Seeing the pieces up close, whether the glasses or the garments, it is clear how much work and precision went into creating every single one of them.
Couple minutes later, I am being led into the smaller room to meet Viktor and Rolf themselves. As we shake hands, Viktor remarks: “I think we’ve met before!” Immediately, I question my whole existence but knowing I would definitely remember if I had met them before, I reply with a nervous smile: “I don’t think so, but it’s good to know I already look familiar.”
We sit down at the table and start chatting right away. My first and most obvious question is about inspiration. “We’re celebrating our 30th anniversary, and we like the idea of creating a pair of glasses that serves almost like a souvenir to remember this moment” says Viktor, and continues to explain the silver rose motif on the frame: “We thought of a rose because it’s a beautiful symbol of femininity, and we incorporate rose quite a lot in our work. It makes you think of couture, it makes you think of fragrance as well. It’s important in our universe. We thought about the collection we did a long time ago, dedicated to a tradition in the Netherlands where you dip a baby’s shoe in silver.” The Fall 2006 Ready-to-Wear instantly pops in my head, as Viktor proceeds: “We dipped clothes in silver. The idea behind it is to cherish or to keep this moment, to honor it and freeze it in time, basically. So by dipping this rose in silver, it is like honoring this anniversary, freezing it to be remembered.”
I love a good backstory, but just like Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why eyewear? “Because we both wear eyewear with quite strong prescription glasses,” Rolf answers with a smirk: “It’s nice to work on something that’s so personal and that you need. At the same time, the gesture may look very small on glasses, but on your face, it becomes quite prominent and for us that’s a nice different way of working.” Viktor also joins to answer and tells me that there are a lot of restrictions when it comes to creating eyewear. And since they have a lot of freedom creating couture, this presented itself like a good challenge to be creative.
Visualizing the Mirror Room, where the glasses are showcased on pedestals next to the couture dresses, and hearing this answer, makes me ask whether the glasses are then an addition to the couture or rather serve as a juxtaposition element to it. “It’s more like it exists in the same universe,” shares Viktor, and clarifies that it can go with couture, and it’s fun to experiment with that. But rather it is an independent design expression of Viktor&Rolf style.
This perfectly moves me to my next question because Viktor&Rolf isn’t only about this eyewear. It is about their unique design expression that has been happening for thirty years now, bringing interesting points of view to the world around us, and I’m curious to find out how their aesthetics and design approach evolved over the years?
“Maybe it hasn’t really evolved,” says Rolf in an incredibly calm way: “All the elements that were born during our first collection in 1993, we still work with them. We’ve gone from abstract to less abstract, to more artistic, to more fashion, but the base elements are always there.” In the world where we are constantly pushed to grow and develop because otherwise we stagnate, it felt really freeing to hear two successful people say to trust the process and everything will be just fine. Viktor then goes on to give examples of what we can see in their collections every time: “There’s sculptural volumes, there’s layering, there’s tule. There is just a certain level of deconstruction that’s very precise,” and he closes perfectly: “The thirty years have been more like a process of purifying the style.”
Still high on the previous answer, I would love to hear more. After all, three decades of ongoing success also bring a lot of memories. And though I’m sure it hasn’t always been only laughs and giggles, I want to hear if there is a memory that comes first to the mind, something that they’ll cherish forever. “Year, there’s one” says Viktor, and then diplomatically adds: “I mean, we don’t really like to give a ranking, but there’s one funny memory. When we started out in 1993, we participated in a contest in the south of France. All the other participants were very serious about it, they had their own brands and their own labels, and we didn’t. And then we won all the first prizes, but they didn’t know how to call us. So when they called us on stage they just said, ‘Victor and Rolf won the prize.’ Instantly we knew that was it and the name just stuck. They gave us the brand name, basically.” I turn to Rolf. They’ve been working together for long enough to be completely in tune with each other but it’s time to find out what his memory is. Rolf laughs and says he thought of the exact same thing, and adds: “In 30 years, there have been so many memories, also some I would like to forget. But the nicest thing for me is that after all these years, we still are such good friends.”
I’n not going to lie, I was left a bit speechless. The amount of respect and appreciation they have for each other as work partners and friends is overwhelming in the best way possible. The brand isn’t ending here, so my last question is about what they hope the future will bring for the brand. “Harmony,” Viktor replies. “Do you feel like it’s not harmonious?” I ask almost too quickly, but with a smile Viktor continues: “Oh no no. You know, we stopped thinking ahead, planning ahead. We try to not live in the future too much, because it’s nice to live in the present. It’s not always easy but it’s good.”
photography by ILSOO VAN DIJK