In New Zealand, The World of Wearable Art competition invites designers to use humans as their canvas. This spectacular show highlights just how crazy designers can be. They’re free to create whatever they want; it just has to be “original, beautifully designed and well-made.” (“About” 2016) This kind of creative exhibition draws in designers from many backgrounds including, art, fashion, textiles, industrial design, architecture and home-making, fusing the idea of fashion as an art rather than clothing.

Haute Couture has been around for many years. The ‘father of haute couture’(Krick 2016), Charles Frederick Worth was creating one off pieces for his more important clients and for The House of Worth by the 1860s. Years later and designers are creating unique items to be displayed at competitions like The World of Wearable Art or to be walked down the runway for fashion week. Fashion as a spectacle has continued to amaze and entertain viewers since the days of Worth, who would prepare designs to be shown on live models at his workshop. (Krick 2016)

Many designers use the idea of a spectacle in their runway shows. Alexander McQueen focused more on the presentation of the pieces, understanding that this was just as important to get a message across as the fashion items themselves. During Milan Fashion Week, Dolce & Gabbana created an extravaganza with the use of dancers during the walk to create a show rather than a catwalk. However it is Viktor and Rolf who take the idea of spectacle to high levels.

They have designed pieces that layered on top of each other, until the model was swamped in clothing, but because of the presentation- Viktor and Rolf bringing out each item and placing it on her- the whole piece became a spectacle. For their first ‘directorial’ piece, “Nightwatch”, they used an existing painting, literally creating fashion as art. (Tyagi 2016)

During the Autumn/Winter Haute Couture Paris Fashion in 2015, Viktor and Rolf presented their ‘Wearable Art’ collection. This featured models walking draped in cloth and chunks of frames, creating the illusion of paintings hanging from their bodies, literally, wearable art.

 

However it was the short film that they created that added to the spectacle of the show.

 

 

The intro brings the viewer into a new world, one that we can identify as a gallery or museum, but it still seems to be in another world. As the ‘burglar’ sneaks into the gallery, the viewer follows her. The strong tension is created in the lighting, however the accompanying music creates intrigue. While we understand what is about to happen there is this curiosity that makes us question it, perhaps something else is going to happen. As her hand reaches out to the swan there is a sense of longing, as though she feels a connection with the swan. The painting that she reaches for is by dutch artist, Jan Asselijn, it is called “The Threatened Swan.” While we do not know this at the time, it is clear that the swan is in danger, perhaps that is the connection between the burglar and the swan. As she takes the painting off the wall, an alarm sounds, now it is the burglar who is threatened. However, as she remains calm the tension grows. Why isn’t she rushing? What is she wanting to do with this painting? The canvas crinkles and the scene becomes even more confusing. The music slowly comes back, however it is a more upbeat tune, and it gradually becomes louder than the alarm. Lights fade on and we see the burglar, however now she is dressed in the painting. Tying the film back to the original haute couture collection, “Wearable Art.”

Jan Asselijn, c. 1650

The Threatened Swan, Jan Asselijn, c. 1650

Through their combination of live shows, original haute couture and the short film, Viktor and Rolf, just like many before them, succeeded at creating a spectacle through fashion.

 

References

“About”. 2016. WOW – World Of Wearable Art. https://www.worldofwearableart.com/about/.

Krick, Jessa. 2016. “Charles Frederick Worth (1825–1895) And The House Of Worth | Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline Of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum Of Art”. The Met’S Heilbrunn Timeline Of Art History. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/wrth/hd_wrth.htm.

Martin, Richard and Harold Koda. 2016. “Haute Couture | Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline Of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum Of Art”. The Met’S Heilbrunn Timeline Of Art History. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/haut/hd_haut.htm.

“Nightwatch: A Film By Viktor&Rolf”. 2016. Viktor-Rolf.Com. http://www.viktor-rolf.com/fashion-artists/met-punk-etc/.

Rijks Museum,. 2016. The Threatened Swan, Jan Asselijn. Image. http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/search/objects?q=the+threatened+swan&p=1&ps=12&st=OBJECTS&ii=0#/SK-A-4,0.

Tyagi, Aishwarya. 2016. “Night At The Museum”. MOJEH. https://mojeh.com/fashion/talking-point/night-museum.

Viktor and Rolf,. 2015. Nightwatch- A Film By Viktor And Rolf. Video. http://www.viktor-rolf.com/fashion-artists/met-punk-etc/.

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