Fashion pair scent success in shades of pretty pink

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The Independent Online

In 1996, two avant-garde Dutch designers began their career with a fashion show of clothing only big enough to be worn by toys, a perfume bottle that stubbornly refused to open and an accompanying spoof advertising campaign. More art installation than commercial concern, it was exhibited in a gallery in Amsterdam. The designers called their phantom label Viktor & Rolf.

In 1996, two avant-garde Dutch designers began their career with a fashion show of clothing only big enough to be worn by toys, a perfume bottle that stubbornly refused to open and an accompanying spoof advertising campaign. More art installation than commercial concern, it was exhibited in a gallery in Amsterdam. The designers called their phantom label Viktor & Rolf.

Almost a decade on, at the Paris collections yesterday, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren launched Flowerbomb, their first bona fide fragrance, in collaboration with the global beauty giant L'Oreal. This time round, the clothes to go with the money-spinning scent were life-size - and often larger-than-life size.

Opening with a sequence of inky black outfits, accessorised with black crash helmets and sky-high shoes, and closing with a line-up of pretty pink alternatives embellished with nothing more sinister than faded blooms, the show drew on the bourgeois French aesthetic the pair have always favoured. In Viktor & Rolf's hands, however, the tuxedo is transformed into everything from a long black evening gown surrounded by ribbons of fluttering satin to the tiniest hot pants. The proportions of trench coats, cocktail dresses and day suits are distorted in ever more sophisticated a manner. The pussy bow, meanwhile, looms large, trimming both the ultra-feminine - a meringue of a ball gown - and Helmut Newton-style androgynous - sharp black tailoring.

At the end of the show, the designers stepped out to take their bows in a shower of petals and against a backdrop of this season's ad campaign. Suffice it to say that, this time round, it was very much a financially driven reality.

Earlier on in the day, it was the turn of fashion's great modernist, Helmut Lang, to unveil his offering for spring/summer 2005. As always, his handwriting was both confident and clear. The prevailing mood in fashion might dictate a girlish optimism but, for this designer, that would never mean resorting to anything as clichéd as rainbow colours or frills. Instead, Lang took the aesthetic he first borrowed from traditional menswear more than 20 years ago now and whipped it into something rather more up-lifting, urban and sexy for the girls.

Shirts and shift dresses came in striped men's shirting gathered close to the body in rows of twisted rosettes. Tunics came in layered and cutaway jersey in blithe but always subtle colours: neutral white and beige were duly prettified with palest pink or powder blue. The tailored jackets that make an appearance on Lang's catwalk each season were this time cropped above the waist, only adding to the louche, low-slung appeal of his trousers: flat-fronted, skinny-legged and at times with their own cummerbund attached, these are most definitely borrowed from the boys.

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