Photography by Sandro Altamirano
The Dutch design duo talk inspiration, muse and and everything in between.
Fragrance has long been about fantasy, and for fashion duo Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren of the Amsterdam-based luxury couture house Viktor & Rolf, that figment is an extension of oneself. “Through fragrance, one can communicate without speaking; it can trigger memories and emotions,” say the synchronized Dutch visionaries (they have a habit of finishing each other’s sentences) over tea and pastries in their Four Seasons Hotel Montreal suite, where we meet to discuss their newest launch, Flowerbomb Dew. Fragrance also carries sartorial-esque powers. “The choice of perfume—sweet, fresh, big, discreet—says something about the wearer, just like a well-chosen outfit.”
In 2005, Horsting and Snoeren dropped a bomb that disrupted the fragrance world with both its design and scent. Their iconic Flowerbomb—an unapologetically sweet oriental floral housed in a hand grenade-shaped bottle—marked the very first perfume for their eponymous label. “We perceive design as a laboratory in which to experiment and push boundaries,” reflect the designers. “In doing so, you surprise yourself and create something new and exciting.”
Photography courtesy of viktor & rolf
Since its successful debut well over a decade ago, the original over-the-top floral, which is laced with jasmine, orange blossom and patchouli, has racked up a cult following, and several quirky and attention-grabbing flankers and limited editions that echo Horsting and Snoeren’s collective boundary-pushing vision have since followed. “Our aim as fashion and fragrance artists has not changed over the years,” say the duo. “We aim to be original and to make expressive and bold statements. We have always translated our brand’s DNA into our fragrances, with the mission to create spectacular beauty.”
This spring, the designers have deployed a brand-new rendition of their signature grenade. Dubbed Flowerbomb Dew, it is a more delicate floral revamp of their olfactory ways. “The Flowerbomb Collection is a family with various intensities; you have the classic, which is an explosion of flowers, and now we wanted to create a ‘sister’ for a person who likes Flowerbomb but wants something a bit softer,” explains Snoeren, who describes Flowerbomb Dew as having a more rose-filled aroma.
The designers called upon leading perfumers Domitille Michalon Bertier, Carlos Benaïm and Dominique Ropion from the Manhattan-based International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. to help them conceptualize the bouquet. And like the eye-catching pearly-white bottle, the new juice inside is an equally artistic feat. First comes a swoon of juicy pear and bergamot essence, followed by a “dewy rose” accord (a hybrid garden rose from the tea rose family that’s grown in water) and iris at the heart. Eventually, a musky and woody drydown settles on the skin for an aura that’s “intimate and personal.” As for the wearer of this floriental musk? “We envision someone who is intelligently glamorous and daringly chic—an icon in their own right,” say the designers.
Anya Taylor-Joy is the face of Viktor & Rolf’s new Flowerbomb Dew. photography courtesy of viktor & rolf
In the same way that scents can trigger vivid memories and visceral connections to something, so, too, can fashion-forward, bar-raising perfume campaigns for these designers. “Fragrances in general were like my portal into the fashion world,” reminisces Horsting about his younger years. “The ads were always inspirational.” The most memorable image for Horsting? Dior’s 1985 launch of Poison, a spicy floral spritz housed in a spherical purple bottle. In the accompanying visual, a model poses with her arms artfully crossed while her hands clutch multiple flacons. “That is a visual I clearly remember,” he says. “I could look at it for hours.”
As for Snoeren’s favourite vintage-campaign moment? Yves Saint Laurent’s 1977 print ad for Opium; it’s fronted by legendary model Jerry Hall, who’s photographed lying in the foreground of the scenery. “It’s extremely opulent, with orchids and gold—it’s insane,” says Snoeren.
Visual storytellers by nature, Horsting and Snoeren tapped American actress Anya Taylor-Joy to capture the ideas of their modern Flowerbomb Dew juice. “Anya perfectly embodies the message we want to share,” voice the duo. “She is sensual, mysterious and powerful all at once. To us, she reflects a determined, outspoken and self-aware woman impeccably.” For the campaign, a fresh-faced Taylor-Joy, clad in a ruffled blouse, draws attention in a radiant but subtle way. And for an actress who has carved a successful niche for herself starring in dark thrillers, it’s a different kind of expression. “In everything we do, there is an element of contradiction; transformation is key in our work,” explain Horsting and Snoeren. “Flowerbomb reflects this approach. The name is a paradox: It’s a modern kind of flower power.”
Like their fantastical, avant-garde designs, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren have an artful way of blessing showgoers with tantalizing hair and makeup. Ahead, some of the designers’ most unforgettable looks.
“We did a collection where all the models were transformed into deer and had antlers. The beauty look was as if they had big, wide, furry eyes. It was really beautiful.” – Viktor Horsting
Models’ eyes were emphasized with hot-pink faux lashes for a “modern doll” look.
Fall 2016 Couture
“For us, a show is not a parade of the designs for the new season. It’s really storytelling, where the clothes and models are actors in a play. This 10-minute moment is something where we want to transport the audience into a different world.” – Viktor Horsting
Spring 2018 Couture
Wispy, windswept braids were accented with delicate colourful flowers for a head-turning hairstyle.
Fall 2019 Couture
“With our Fall 2019 couture collection, we explored the notion of conscious design in ‘Spiritual Glamour,’ referring to a magic spell. In this case, the spell was cast to transform a general feeling of doom about the environment into a positive action.” – Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren
Spring 2020 Couture
“Our most recent couture show was soft and romantic, with frills, and inspired by writer Laura Ingalls Wilder and illustrator Holly Hobbie from Little House on the Prairie. The hair spelled romance, but then we added fake facial tattoos to give the models an aggressive edge—except all the texts of the tattoos were positive affirmations and words. The look was tough and complex, but the message was positive.” – Rolf Snoeren
Buy Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Dew here.