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Coronavirus fashion is here, and it’s stunning

Viktor & Rolf’s new collection aims to capture the range of conflicting emotions.

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Can fashion inspired by a devastating pandemic be beautiful? I didn’t think so, but the Dutch fashion house Viktor & Rolf just unveiled its autumn/winter collection, which encapsulates the strange, dark moment we’re in, and it is absolutely stunning.

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The truth is that many of us experience a daily whirlwind of emotions while in quarantine, ranging from anxiety to optimism to a desire for connection. Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, the designers who launched their label in 1993, aptly entitled the new collection “Change,” which perfectly captures this roller coaster of feelings.

Viktor & Rolf launched the collection in a film that debuted on its website. The models walked through a plush room in the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam. The film was directed by Marijke Aerden, and MIKA, a singer, provided narration about the looks based on Horsting and Snoeren’s commentary.

The collection features “three wardrobes for three mindsets,” each a distinct aesthetic reflective of our current moment. In fitting with the times, each set includes three pieces designed for our current reality: a nightgown, a dressing gown, and a coat with dramatic protrusions to remind people to keep their distance.

The first set conveys the gloominess of our moment. The nightgown is a deep blue, covered in gray clouds embroidered in lace, which evokes our collective depression. The black coat features thorn-like cones, some of which are covered in glitter, making the look both intimidating and eye-catching.

[Photo: courtesy Viktor & Rolf]

The second set is more upbeat, featuring pink and peach garments. But in the narration, the designers say they wanted to express the conflicting emotions that people are feeling. The nightgown, for instance, is covered in emojis, including anger, anxiety, sadness, and joy. One of my favorite pieces in the entire collection is the cheery pink dressing gown covered in protruding yellow, orange, and pink tubes that are adorned with glitter. To me, the look captures our almost childlike optimism and hope for a brighter future in the face of the still unfolding horror.

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[Photo: CasperKofi/courtesy Viktor & Rolf]
The final set features three white garments, covered in hearts. The looks are meant to communicate our desire for love and connection during this time. In the show notes, the designers say they wanted to illustrate that, “we all deserved to be loved, regardless of age, color, gender, race, religion, or sexuality.” The aesthetic is particularly meaningful at a time of worldwide protests about systemic racism.

[Photo: courtesy Viktor & Rolf]
Since the pandemic has made it impossible for designers to show their upcoming collections at runway shows, brands have had to get creative about how they debut their latest looks. Hermès showed its menswear line in a behind-the-scenes video filmed in the company’s workshop in Pantin, France. Loewe created a show-in-a-box for its menswear line, featuring fabric swatches and little paper figures, which it sent to fashion editors around the world, quickly becoming a hit on Instagram. Anifa Mvuemba, meanwhile, founder of Hanifa, launched her collection via a hauntingly beautiful 3D show on Instagram Live.

About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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