Viktor & Rolf is a Dutch avant-garde luxury design house, established in 1993 by Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren. The two are not romantic partners but cannot be described as purely business partners either. They consider themselves as “thinking with one brain” and their commercial enterprise as an extension of their friendship. It’s a creative force with one vision, arising from two different people.
The fashion house was founded by artist pair after their graduation from the Arnhem Academy of Art and Design. Their clothes are designed to be provocative and unconventional. “Surreal contrast” is their goal.
Princess Mabel is not a conventional person herself, and her long-term relationship her patronage of their business is not surprising. She is also a long-time friend to both men. Together the three forged a personal style for Mabel unlike any other royal. Her ensemble at the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria was unforgettable.
Central to her style was “the bow”. After her husband’s death, Mabel appeared in public at the inauguration of the Dutch King. She was wearing her version of mourning, a black dress with a white bow (and one white sleeve). True to herself and true to her memories.
For the evening festivities at the same event, the Princess wore a more conventional gown, but the bow remained a prominant design feature.
Let’s turn to happier times in her life. I know this is the dress you REALLY want to talk about it. Mabel Wisse Smit, as she was, felt that the original sketches for her wedding gown were too conventional. She asked Viktor & Rolf for something more “memorable”.
Some wonder why this works, but if you look at the actual construction of the dress, you will see it’s couture conventional. The tailoring is perfection, the choice of double-faced duchesse satin fabric allows for movement and flow, and the bateau neckline, long sleeves, and very slightly flared skirt are a perfect foundation for the embellishments. Those embellishments include two hundred and forty eight bows, 128 bows for the skirt, 85 on the bodice, and – in increasing size – 35 on the train.
We don’t see Mabel in public that often any more, as she is focused on her private initiatives. I do miss her, and hope that she, and her two rapidly growing daughters, might appear on the scene again soon.
Coda: Princess Mabel obliged us by wearing her favorite designer last Saturday and adding some spice to this particular Designer Diary. She attended the Amsterdamdiner fundraiser for the AIDS Foundation wearing a tent dress mini. The dress was missing her bows but was festooned with plenty of mod flowers. Well her ankle shoes have bows ; )