INTERVIEW BY ALEX FREUND
PORTRAIT ILLUSTRATION BY JENNY MORTSELL • JED ROOT
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SPENCER HIGGINS • JED ROOT
GRAVURE: You’re both Dutch and are based in Amsterdam. How do you feel being based outside the Paris-Milan-New York axis has affected your work?
V&R: It’s quiet! Being outside allows us a kind of freedom to step outside of fashion and concentrate on our work. It’s easier to see things from the outside.
GRAVURE: How does this affect how you approach your work?
V&R: We work upside down!
GRAVURE: How so? Your collections are always very conceptual, but how do you approach a fragrance project? Can a smell be conceptual?
V&R: We think so. We always start with a word. With our fragrances, we can’t smell it until we know the word, so the idea is very important.
GRAVURE: There’s such a strong history and a design sensibility unique to the Netherlands – how does that play into your work? Do you feel burdened by it? Liberated by it?
V&R: Well, the most important thing is be authentic and to have a point of view… to be original. However, being here does allow us to see things differently and it helps us adapt to different locations. In the end, what is most important is to be unique and to have original ideas. We travel a lot so it helps us to be based here.
GRAVURE: It shows in your work – for instance, you show in Paris and the Eau Mega advertising shows the New York skyline. Do you approach your projects with a specific location in mind?
V&R: We don’t have a specific location in mind but we do feel energized when we come to New York.
GRAVURE: Do you think the energy in New York has changed in recent years?
V&R: Yes! Very much. But some things are constant.
GRAVURE: Like what?
V&R: New York is about being aspirational and larger than life, which are two qualities that we admire in the American character.
GRAVURE: Raquel [Zimmerman] is definitely “larger than life” in that ad – in comic books, New York is always the city filled with super heroes.
V&R: [Laughs] Yes. It seems that way!
GRAVURE: Coming back to the subject of ideas, design, and originality, what is the most innovative thing you’ve seen in fashion lately?
V&R: We have been finding the internet and fashion websites increasingly interesting.
GRAVURE: How do you see the internet fitting into fashion?
V&R: The internet also takes away some of the mystery, which is sad. But on the other hand, it is a new reality and it has created a lot of opportunity. It’s definitely changing things a lot. You can be anywhere now.
GRAVURE: Your first fragrance was a bottle that didn’t open. It was all brand and made a statement about fashion branding. Has your point of view changed at all since you started?
V&R: Not really. It’s always a balance of form and content. We think design and branding can have meaning of its own – the bottle is its own content.
GRAVURE: Very meta! Do you think branding leads content or vice versa?
V&R: They’re both important. There has to be a balance.
GRAVURE: You’ve previously described your fragrance, Flowerbomb, as “romantic, but volatile” and “glamour, but with rage”. How do you describe Eau Mega?
V&R: Flowerbomb is a much stronger, more powerful scent, while Eau Mega is sweeter and more uplifting and more complex. People need complexity. Especially now…
GRAVURE: Given the state of the world, do you think people need something a bit uplifting?
V&R: Yes. Definitely. People need a bit of fantasy, always.
GRAVURE: Is the need more urgent now with all the “reality” people are facing right now – the economy, war, and so on?
V&R: Well, we always need to dream. We think it’s especially important with the current crisis. We think it comes through in our shows – there is a reality that we’re questioning.
We always have to question what we’re presented.