A perfect bundle of hot pink acetate, stacks of inverted fashion photography and different weights of paper stock, calling the new Phaidon title dedicated to theatrical Dutch fashion designers Viktor&Rolf a book seems something of a stretch. Designed by Irma Boom – the experimental publication specialist sometimes dubbed the “queen of books” – the tome called Cover Cover has been made from eight-page gatefolds, each of which represent a different Viktor&Rolf collection. Using different thicknesses of paper, the spreads have been layered on top of each other and hand-sewn with matching hot pink thread.
“It’s very much how they work,” Irma says of the relationship between the book’s structure and its subject. “Of course they’re fashion designers so they ‘cover’ but throughout their career even if you go back to their first show, you can see they put layer over layer – a jacket over a jacket over a jacket. This book is a cover on a cover on a cover.”
Irma first met Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren while teaching at the fashion academy in Arnhem – their tutor when the pair took a course in bookmaking. They stayed in touch and approached her nearly six years ago to work on the project.
Irma’s first step was to organise the pair’s unruly archive, pairing sketches with photography of their finished collections. “Seeing their sketches, their development and the way they visualise ideas tells a lot,” Irma tells It’s Nice That.
Given the disparate nature of the experimental collections, Irma used inversion as a device for giving the photography the appearance of “one big concept”. Aside from transforming models into otherworldly beings, the inverted tones also have the added benefit of picking up the garment’s texture and details, from the buttons on the Vagabonds collection to the backcombed hair and frazzled ends of 2014’s Bon Bon.
Irma decided that she wanted the duo’s first collection to sit at the book’s centre, with graduating paper stock a reflection of their work. “At the heart of the book the paper is thicker – here their work is very strongly conceptual but as you go to the outside it develops into something else. The paper becomes thinner and the folds disappear. It’s a technical thing but I also like it as a conceptual development.”
The book was full of technical challenges meaning Irma had to produce numerous models before Phaidon was able to produce Cover Cover. “You can have an idea and I made all the models myself but to have it actually produced and executed, the difference is crucial,” she says. “That was a big challenge. It’s a big package to handle, it’s not a book that you can throw into a machine – the binding hand to be done by hand for example. Because their work is very sculptural, I also want to make to book as a sculpture.”