Walter Van Beirendonck: the Politics of Fashion

Recently, one of the founding members of the Antwerp Six responded to the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, by letting a see-through tank top with the words “Stop Terrorising Our World” open his AW 2015 fashion show. The powerful words a ready-made, a reused artwork from the slogan of Walter Van Beirendonck’s 2006 AW collection. The designer himself explained his stand to the French newspaper Le Point by simply stating that “when you see what is happening in the world, you must react.”

Throughout his career Van Beirendonck has combined his textile designs with artwork and elaborate graphics. His style aesthetic is not limited to textiles and he excels in expanding his abilities and communicative skills by any means. This includes showcasing inspiration from different cultures and historic events. There is always a message to be found in Walter van Beirendonck’s collections, be it clear or hidden. In his collection for AW 2014 it was written in bright red “Stop Racism” graphics. At his AW 2010 fashion show, all his models wore big earmuffs and some carried guns. He was then quoted to say that he felt the world was a scary place, and these accessories exemplified his view on the current state of society. The notion of his designs seems to steam from a need to express thoughts, feelings, and annoyances. They all fuel Van Beirendoncks creative process, and instead of using pen and paper he uses needle and thread.

Fashion can be viewed as a means to communicate; it is a way to portray more than just a shallow surface. The fashion world’s combination of a global and intermedia platform harvests an important echo for designers to open up their minds, an approach Walter Van Beirendonck seems to have taken to heart. Fashion may be considered a frivolity by many and using it as a media for these messages may be somewhat ironic. However, fashion is also one of the world’s most lucrative businesses and has a great capital in the markets, which makes it a loud voice to use when in need to speak up your mind.

Victoria Edman