Fashion doesn’t always have to have a meaning, but sometimes it is necessary- and it can be quite powerful when it does. As we all helplessly watched the tragic horrors unfold in Paris, reminding us once again of our collective vulnerability against forces evil- I thought of Walter van Beirendonck’s powerful message in January of this year, during Paris Fashion Week.
We have the need and the right to have beautiful things around us – increasingly people are not given the opportunity to see these things.
Communicating a message has always been signature to Walter van Beirendonck’s designs, experimenting with the conventions of fashion, politics, sexuality, art and subcultures. His Explicit Beauty for AW15 raises a fist against the increasing attack on the freedom of artistic expression and beauty. It questions the idea of having a thought police, with social media driving critique from all corners of the globe. Walter referenced the unfortunate terror attack on Charlie Hebdo – and the removal of Paul McCarty’s installation at the Place Vendôme, after a public outrage over the resemblance of the Christmas tree to a giant butt plug. The Models walked down the runway elegantly with Egyptian eye-makeup and a mix of textures: A reminder to the versatility of beauty. Plastic transparent tunic tops read the slogans ‘Stop terrorising our world’, ‘Demand Beauty’ and ‘Warning, Explicit Beauty’- with 3D printed Butt Plug pendants gracefully hanging around the model’s necks.
We’re overwhelmed by cameras, not just selfies, but ISIS … we’re obliged to see everything dreadful that’s going on.
Walter’s dismay towards terrorism and forces of darkness did not end with Explicit Beauty. Electric Eye, van Beirendonck’s SS16 collection, has Bowie’s Moonage Daydream at the source of its inspiration- a song that tells the story of an alien messiah and his destiny to save the world from an impending doom. While the collection appears happy and childlike on the surface, it has a sinister meaning to its essence. Walter explained that, it is a collection about freedom and freshness surrounded by forces of darkness- referring to the influence of Social Media and the presence of ISIS in our society. He emphasised this with colorful childlike toy prints, sewed on to black tailored suits, worn by models with outrageous feathered insect-like hats. Much like toys themselves-designed they are designed by milliner Stephen Jones who has frequently worked with Walter, as part of a long-standing collaboration. The runway was kept simple and the melancholic music added to the ambiance of the concept, in contrast with the cheerful appearance of the clothing.
Walter van Beirendonck never shy’s away from a statement and continues to challenge the audience through exhilarating statement collections, reminding us that there are certain ideas worth protecting and fighting for. He throws a fist against terrorism, through fashion, and raises awareness on subjects often taboo in society, asking us not to give in to fear, but daring to speak out and question things that are threatening our society.