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Walter Van Beirendonck
Related: Antwerp fashion - Antwerp Six
Ensemble, spring/summer 2003
Aestheticterrorists by Walter van Beirendonck (Belgian, b. 1957)
Photograph by Donald Graham
Styling by Timoth Reukauf for Paper Magazine
Image sourced here.
ProfileWalter Van Beirendonck was born on 4 February 1957. He studied fashion design at the Royal Academy of Antwerp, and is often described as the wildest and most eccentric of the "Antwerp Six”. Some of Walter's models had to fall from the catwalk in the Paris Lido, he produced a manual for copying his work and organised an exhibition in Antwerp about plastic surgery and self-mutilation. But Van Beirendonck is also - and above all - an award-winning designer and the lucid head of a lucrative fashion empire.
Walter Van Beirendonck studied, like his famous city contemporaries at the Royal Academy in Antwerp. His career got off to a flying start at the British Designer Show in London in 1986. He develops three lines per season, the main “Walter Van Beirendonck” line, the cheaper “W<” line (Wild & Lethal Trash, formerly known as “Walter Worldwide”) and a children's collection. In 1992, he signed a cooperation agreement with jeans manufacturer Mustang, which ran until 1999. Mustang produced and marketed W< during that period, of course in close cooperation with the designer.
In Van Beirendonck’s collection, the influence of his fascination with toys and multimedia technology is particularly palpable. The constant presence of exuberant colours and futuristic motifs alluding both to SM aesthetics and their inherent violence and aggression as well as to trash comics such as the Jetsons and the Flintstones. The names that Van Beirendonck gives to his collections (“Bad Baby Boys”, “Let’s Tell A Fairy Tale” and “King Kong Kooks”, to name but a few) say a lot on that subject.
Van Beirendonck loves collaboration. That was clear at the opening of his flagship store in Antwerp. Together with Australian star designer Marc Newson and Antwerp architects "B-Architecten", they developed the décor for a former car park building. They developed a “store-in-store concept”, whereby the shop premises offer space to various designers, and Van Beirendonck’s own clothes can be shown in trade fairs and in other environments in a suitable way, thanks to multicoloured, container-like structures.
“Walter”, the shop (a so-called Multibrand Store), is a total concept in which the collections of Dirk Van Saene, Bless, Vexed Generation, Yoichi Nagasawi and Bernhard Willhelm are on display. But there is also a gallery, “Window”, and a house magazine, "Wonder". Van Beirendonck’s interest in art led during the Summer of Antwerp 2001 to the total happening “Mode Landed-Geland” and the fashion show “Mutilate”, of which he was the exhibition director. --http://www.belgium.be/eportal/application?languageParameter=en&pageid=contentPage&docId=17969 [Jul 2004]
Mode 2001So one would think that given $5 million by the regional government to put on an exhibition to showcase Antwerp design, Van Beirendonck, a lecturer at the Fashion Institute, would have as his primary aim the promotion of the school's talented graduates-to get them some of the top posts at major fashion houses and attract shoppers to their labels. In fact, he's going about it the other way round. He says his goal is not to promote designers, but to bring the over-commercialized world of fashion around to his way of thinking. "I want to underline the way we feel about fashion and the way we work with fashion. It's definitely different from the way Milan works. There are things that are more important than fashion shows or glamorous campaigns."
The result, Mode 2001 Landed-Geland, a series of four exhibitions staged throughout Antwerp until Oct. 7, is a means of exploring where the creative energy of the Antwerp designers comes from. The series of exhibitions includes things not normally associated with fashion shows, like helicopter rides, videos and slogan-less billboards. The most popular and the largest of the exhibitions, "Mutilate," is housed in the city's contemporary art museum, muhka. Visitors are, says Van Beirendonck, confronted with examples of the way people in cultures around the world alter their bodies in the name of fashion. There's an image of skinny Twiggy, the '60s model who inspired fashionable women in the West to give up food, but there are also representations of foot-bound Chinese women and lotus shoes. Upstairs are examples of undergarments worn though the years to enable women to fit into the fashions of the day (no big Bridget Jones panties, though) and modern designs that attempt to change the body structure. Think a Comme des Garçons' pillow dress, which for thousands of dollars contrived to make the well-dressed woman look as if she had been mysteriously inflated in all the wrong places. --Lauren Goldstein in http://www.time.com/time/pacific/magazine/20010813/fashion.html
In association with the Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art (MUHKA)
Fashion is the starting point for this exceptional exhibition, in search of historical, ethnic and aesthetic points of contact. From these several angles, MUTILATE?-VERMINK? offers a survey of the various ways throughout history and all over the world man has used extreme, bizarre, crazy and singular forms of fashion, body decoration and manipulation. It shows how man is forever adapting his appearance, mostly for social and religious reasons. Among other things, it shows several aspects of the history of Western fashion, including 18th-century crinolines and corsets and more recent expressions of fashion such as body painting and other Western body cultures. In addition it focuses on ethnographic and anthropological items such as skull distortions, scarification, lip discs and so on. MUTILATE?-VERMINK? offers an insight into various forms of bodily mutilation, in which context avatars also assume significance, as if this were a provisional end to an evolution that is both characteristic of humans but at the same time alien. MUTILATE?-VERMINK? cannot be placed under a single heading, but provides, rather, a picture of various approaches, in which the notion of ‘fashion’ is questioned and apparently divergent phenomena are brought face to face.
Curator: Walter Van Beirendonck
Coordination, research and secretariat: Kurt Vanbelleghem, Koen De Cauwer, Andrea Wiarda and Els Roelandt for A Prior, Office for Artistic Production Design: Walter Van Beirendonck with B-architecten --http://www.mode2001.be/html/eng/main/mutilate.html [Jul 2004]
Fashion 2001 Landed #1 () - Walter Van Beirendonck
Fashion 2001 Landed #1 () - Walter Van Beirendonck, Luc Derycke, Takeji Hirakawa, Denis Laurent, Michel Bauwens [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
About the Author
The curator of "Landed-Geland", designer Walter Van Beirendonck, has always been a maverick. One of the Antwerp Six, he approaches his collections in a multidisciplinary and visionary way. Currently, he designs for two labels, Walter Van Beirendonck and aesthetic terrorists, is a consultant for Starlab's intelligent clothing project, has a shop in Antwerp called Walter, and lectures frequently at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
Antwerp=Fashion=Culture=Mode 2001=Landed-Geland. This equation stands for the cosmopolitan, idiosyncratic, fascinating, and stimulating event that was "Landed-Geland", a six-month, citywide, multimedia extravaganza that recently colored and clothed the city of Antwerp in the name of fashion. Twenty five rotating billboards displayed 75 radical images by international designers; the exhibit "Mutilate?" examined the phenomenon of fashion from an ethnic and historical perspective; another exhibit, "2 Women", examined Gabrielle Chang and Rei Kawakubo, two maverick designers of indisputable importance; and 300 interviewees were asked the question: "What was your most intense emotion ever as regards fashion?" And here is the catalog, divided into two parts, with Part I providing all of the fascinating conceptual framework, and Part II vivid and complete photographic documentation of the exhibit that temporarily changed the look of Antwerp.
Edited, introduction and interviews by Walter Van Beirendonck & Luc Derycke. Interviews by Steven Jones, Rei Kawakubo, Mr. Pearl and Takeji Hirakawa. --Book Description via Amazon.com
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