the "russian doll" collection presented by the dutch duo's haute couture collection for autumn/winter 1999 is regarded by many as the defining moment when the designers gained the reputation for being two of the most innovative talents and established viktor and rolf as two of fashion's most provocative showmen.
inspired by matryoshka dolls, that beloved icon of russian culture, viktor and rolf took the idea and built a collection based on the theme of layering. casting model maggie rizer for her unobtrusive and pure doll-like beauty, the show opened with rizer standing on a rotating pedestal dressed in an unassuming burlap slip dress with frayed edges that resembled more like a potato sack than a couture dress. without the obvious grandeur that is usually attached to a couture show no one was to expect that magic that would eventually unfold. after each complete rotation of the pedestal, viktor and rolf would re-emerge from the darkness to add another layer on top of the dress. the new one more beautiful and more elaborately embroidered than the last. after the seventh and final layer was added, a massive coat with a sculpted rose made out of the same burlap that opened the show sprawling across the front, rizer was covered in approximately seventy kilograms of beautiful and ornate creations.
this collection struck such a chord because it displayed in essence the true nature of haute couture. the sublime beauty in the process of making hand made garments. how every hidden boning, every seam, each panel of cloth and everyone of the thousands of beads embroidered onto the fabric is just one part of the complete, resplendent picture.
in the many years i've been following fashion, there are only a handful of collections that i can only describe as incandescently perfect. this is most definitely one of them.