Injection of Diesel to drive Viktor & Rolf around globe
The timing couldn't be more perfect. Just as the Dutch design pairing, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, are wowing London with a show featuring probably the world's most glamorous doll's house at the Barbican Art Gallery, it was announced that they have sold a majority shareholding in their company to Renzo Rosso, owner and founder of Diesel and the aptly named holding company, Only The Brave (OTB).
Financial terms were undisclosed but plans are already afoot to expand the designers' ready-to-wear lines, add licensed products – from eyewear to jewellery – and open free-standing boutiques in high end shopping destinations worldwide. There is only one Viktor & Rolf store and that is in Milan's hyper fashionable Via Sant'Andrea. True to the somewhat surreal nature of the designers' aesthetic, this is fitted upside down – from the oak parquet ceiling to chandeliers sprouting from the floor.
Rosso said yesterday the business plan he had in mind for Viktor & Rolf would not be dissimilar to that he had followed since his purchase of the avant-garde Belgian fashion house Maison Martin Margiela, acquired by OTB in 2002. The coupling of the ebullient Rosso and Margiela, a famously elusive Belgian designer, was described as being like a marriage between Harpo Marx and Greta Garbo when it was first announced, but any sceptics will find nothing much to argue with where sales figures are concerned. Consolidated revenues at Margiela leapt 50 per cent last year and continue to climb.
Snoeren, the more talkative of the Viktor & Rolf team, told the trade paper Women's Wear Daily: "He [Rosso] has shown with Margiela what he can do. The business has grown substantially and he kept the DNA of the brand. It's a win-win situation."
It is well known to industry insiders that Viktor & Rolf have been in talks with Rosso for more than two years. To seal the deal, Rosso bought shares that were previously owned by Franco Pene, whose company, Gibo, has also been responsible for producing the designers' collections. Staff International, the manufacturing arm of OTB, will now take over that side of the business and the worldwide licence for Viktor & Rolf ready-to-wear, accessories and shoes. Any remaining shares belong to the designers. Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, both born in 1969, met while studying fashion at the Academy of Arts in Arnhem and began showing in Paris in the latter part of the 1990s. Since then they have given the world some of the most extraordinary conceptually driven shows in history.
"A lot of people fear creativity," Snoeren said of the new partnership with Rosso. "For [Rosso] it is a challenge." In a statement, the designers said: "We want to develop our fashion house to its full potential. We admire Renzo Rosso's unconventional nature and the success it has brought him. We decided to join forces with him because his motto 'Only The Brave' appeals to us. True creation requires courage."
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