The Genteel
March 5, 2021


Viktor&Rolf dolls

"Viktor&Rolf Dolls" recently opened at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto as part of the 7th annual Luminato Festival, the city's arts and creativity festival. Featuring 31 handmade porcelain dolls wearing precisely scaled-down garments - five of which have never before been seen in public - every aspect of every doll is a replica of an original creation by designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren.

Widely known for their conceptual aesthetic, art-house designs and whimsically provocative runway shows, the duo considers the pint-sized project a creative way to preserve their work - a miniature retrospective of sorts. Arranged on a tiny catwalk designed in collaboration with award-winning Dutch-Belgium design studio, Studio Job, the result is extraordinarily eccentric and enchanting. 

Since 2008, the Dutch designers have chosen one or two iconic looks from each collection and miniaturised them to fit 70 centimetre porcelain dolls. Originally a retrospective for the Barbican Art Gallery in London, the project has become their labour of love. From the dolls' eyes, makeup and hair to the fabrics, fashions and accessories, every detail has been meticulously scaled down to create exact reproductions of the runway originals. The dolls wear some of Viktor&Rolf's most memorable designs, even depicting the actual models that originally wore the designs on the runway. "What we wanted to emphasize with the work that we make [is] even though they're separate collections and every season is something new, at the same time to us, our work is also one whole," explained Horsting to the National Post

Viktor&Rolf dolls

Creating the doll-size garments involves significantly more work than making life-sized designs. But the designers have adopted the project as a way to increase the longevity of their creations. "What appeals especially to us about these porcelain dolls is that fashion is so disposable nowadays. It goes so fast. And it feels like we are freezing time by making all of these dolls," explained Horsting to the National Post. He added, "[It's] emphasizing the fact that an idea or a garment, if it's beautiful, it doesn't go away. It lasts."

The dolls themselves are produced at a doll factory in Belgium in a time-consuming process. Facial features are sculpted, then paint is applied to replicate the makeup the models originally wore on the runway. Then the heads are glazed five times, in order to set the various colours. The wigs are woven from human hair by a hairdresser. Seamstresses at the Viktor&Rolf studio in Amsterdam sew the dolls' garments. "The same women who work on the couture, are working on the dolls," explained Snoeren. "The dolls are our archive. We don't own all of our old creations. In some cases, museums have them; in some cases, the only copies are on the dolls," Horsting added.

The dolls are stored in Amsterdam, each one in its own little wooden box, almost like a miniature coffin. The dolls are exquisite yet somewhat disturbing. "They have a strange presence. It's almost as if they have souls," mused Snoeren, "We love things that are surreal." 

"Viktor&Rolf Dolls" runs until June 30, 2013 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada.



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