Viktor & Rolf came up with what they referred to as “a meditation on a contemporary obsession” for their Fall 2104 Haute Couture collection. They wondered whether it would be possible to coerce such a rigid material into wearable volumes, describing the knotting, wrapping, and tying techniques as “spontaneous gestures.” The duo insisted that there was neither positive nor negative subtext—that the intention was “nonjudgmental.” They admitted that the idea was, quite simply, “a big challenge.”

Where other designers begin with aesthetics, Viktor & Rolf often start with language, and in this way their collections can end up projecting the esoteric cleverness that comes naturally to graduating-year fashion students.

The undone hair, au naturel makeup, and boyish rug-covered oxfords made clear that this was not a dissertation on Hollywood glamour. Instead, the leopard, zebra, and giraffe patterning—all hand-cut, shaved, and hand-applied to a pliant netting base—suggested primitive glamour. All those cape shapes, blankets bearing oversize bows, and sacks with well-placed arm slits are not destined for play-it-safe starlets; more likely they will be collected and, one day, exhibited. But as the models moseyed down the tapis rouge runway to be shot by fashion photographers rather than paparazzi, the realms folded in on each other and the medium became the message. All the while, a group of percussion students from Amsterdam provided a rhythmic soundscape from an upper balcony, clapping according to a syncopated composition by Steve Reich.