Viktor&Rolf A/W 2023 Collection: Swim Meets Surrealism


Fashion frequently borrows inspiration from art movements such as Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, and Realism. In 2012, designer Rodarte created a tribute collection to Van Gogh, turning his famous paintings into dresses. While Rodarte’s collection is quite an overt example of inspiration, other designers have opted to keep their artistic inspiration more subtle.


Viktor&Rolf is a haute couture brand known for its voluptuous dresses with a “more is more” mindset. In early 2023, the designers showcased their Spring/Summer collection that featured over-the-top gowns inspired by 20th-century fashion, emphasizing the exquisite gowns commonly worn back then. However, Viktor&Rolf is no stranger to absurdity and nonsensical designs. This Spring/Summer collection was only the prologue to what the couture designers had in store for their swimwear line.

Randi Mora, 2012
Viktor& Rolf A/W 23 Look 25
Viktor& Rolf A/W 23 Look 25

Filled with ribbons, bows, and double takes this swimwear line is unusual. Dubbed the “Embodiment” collection, Viktor&Rolf showcase signature silhouettes and layering techniques inspired by Surrealism. If you are unfamiliar with Surrealism, it is essentially the expression and visualization of the unconscious mind—meaning if you can’t explain it, it is probably surreal.

“Surreal interjections of feminine tuxedos embody the conceptual, the essence of Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren themselves.”

The Meaning of Night
The Meaning of Night (1927), Magritte
Viktor& Rolf A/W 23 Look 28
Viktor& Rolf A/W 23 Look 28

It goes without saying that swimwear and the beach go hand-in-hand. But Viktor and Rolf took it upon themselves to transform that preconceived notion into nonfunctional pieces. Models adorn satin bodysuits layered under a man's suit and tie ensemble, designed so it is structurally wrapped around their bodies. When comparing this look to Surrealist paintings, many may think of René Magritte’s The Son of a Man (1964) or The Meaning of Night (1927). Both works illustrate a man in a black suit reminiscent of the suits designed by Viktor&Rolf.


Common motifs in their Autumn/Winter swimwear collection, and for the brand in general, are bows, ribbons, and intense layering. Although some of Viktor&Rolf’s looks don’t immediately scream Dalí, with further evaluation, there are many similarities to other unique surrealist paintings.

The Son of a Man, Magritte
The Son of a Man, Magritte
Viktor& Rolf A/W 23 Look 6
Viktor& Rolf A/W 23 Look 6

Viktor&Rolf’s over-the-top and rather camp swimsuit with elevated ruffles mimic the elegance of a swan’s wings. The two looks are reminiscent of Rafal Olbinski’s Percepcyjny Osad (1998) surrealist painting. With expansive fabric, multiple layers, and heightened bows creating a structured silhouette, these swimsuits lack functionality but are full of depth—similar to Surrealism. Olbinski’s piece depicts the romance within nature. Water and clouds are separated by miles of air but come together during rainfall. The fabrics used in this collection resemble Michael Cheval’s Melody of Rain (2015)—the swimsuit’s fabric is eerily similar to the tablecloth where the Gramaphone lays and the bows point to the ballerina’s bow detail on her dress.

Percepcyjny Osad by Rafal Olbinski
Percepcyjny Osad by Rafal Olbinski 
Viktor& Rolf A/W 23 Look16
Viktor& Rolf A/W 23 Look 16 

To continue the collection’s less-than-practical motif, Viktor&Rolf opted to capitalize on their love for structure and implement that into typography. Some bathing suits feature phrases or words displayed across the bodice, such as “NO” and “I WISH YOU WELL.” Critics online are expressing their curiosity for the second phrase, highlighting how it is the exact words Gwenyth Paltrow used when she won her recent court case against a man that sued her for a skiing accident.

Melody of Rain by Michael Cheval
Melody of Rain by Michael Cheval
Viktor& Rolf A/W 23
Viktor& Rolf A/W 23 

Comparatively, Randy Mora’s color scheme and blockage in Randi Mora (2012) evoke a similar aesthetic to the bold-lettered swimsuits. You could even argue Viktor&Rolf further took inspiration from the headless man in a black suit.


Although some forms of art may resemble another form, that does not discredit the creativity and originality of the artist. One of the biggest hallmarks of creativity is the ability to take inspiration from an artist or work of art and reinvent it to establish your own style.Viktor&Rolf’s A/W 2023 swimwear line is a prime example of this.

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