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June 23, 2008 5:04 PM

Eye, Fashion

Setting Sail for Viktor & Rolf

/*photo styles */ .photo-left { width:200px; float:left; margin:4px; } .photo-right { width:200px; float:right; margin:4px; } .caption { font-size:10px;padding:2px; color:#999999; } There was excitement not often seen among London's fashion and art crowd Tuesday night when they gathered at the...

There was excitement not often seen among London's fashion and art crowd Tuesday night when they gathered at the Barbican Center for the opening of Viktor & Rolf's exhibition of porcelain dolls wearing the designers' past collections. Guests clamored to glimpse the giant doll's house the duo had created, peering at the porcelain figures - all carefully grouped in different rooms by runway collection - that had taken up residence.

London's usual party crew - including Natalie Press, Mischa Barton, Kelly Osbourne, Matthew Williamson, Gareth Pugh and television presenter Alexa Chung - made the trek from the chic West End to trip through the labyrinthine halls of the center - a monolithic series of concrete bunkers near London's financial district. Indeed, the suitably dolled-up crowd, many wearing the Dutch designers' pieces, was a study in contrasts with the sober surroundings of the center, as were the pink and purple floral arrangements placed artfully around the halls.

The designers themselves, Viktor Hortsing and Rolf Snoeren, cut a low profile at the party, and after posing for a few pictures with friends they disappeared among the crowd. When the exhibition's sponsors took to the mic to congratulate the duo, the shy designers admitted that they "didn't have a speech."

But unlike many exhibition openings here, where the scenesters seem to be blissfully unaware of which artist they're feting on any given week, this crowd knew their stuff. Singer Róisín Murphy told me she'd even road-tested a look from the designers' fall 2007 collection - a black silk dress that came complete with its own lighting rig. Murphy wore the look (possibly its first outing on a civilian street) on the cover of her single "Overpowered," shot in southeast London. Not that the outfit didn't present its challenges "It was like wearing a sail," Murphy admitted. "I'd pose and then topple over."

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