Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Walter Van Beirendonck's Alien Invasion in Paris

Walter Van Beirendonck's new SS20 collection in Paris inspired by alien avatar's clothing repurposed for humans.
Main Photograph and cover picture by Elli Ioannou for DAM
Belgian fashion designer Walter Van Beirendonck's avant-garde new Spring/Summer 2020 menswear collection is inspired by humans wearing the vintage clothes of alien avatars and made manifest in a grungy garage in Paris, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Additional reporting and photography by Elli Ioannou

Neon plastic ruffs added a dash
of drama to sporty & suited creations
SHOWN in an atmopsheric, post-apocalyptic space in Paris' artistic Belleville neighbourhood, Walter Van Beirendonck's brilliantly-hued new collection provided a vivid foil to the industrial grunge of the locale.

Since his very first shows, the Belgian designer has been inspired by literature, music, art and nature. But this Spring-Summer 2020, the creations were inspired by Van Beirendonck's vision of the vintage clothes of aliens from outer space being worn by humans. "I call it 'Alien Vintage', a fantasy where all of these pieces were originally worn by extra-terrestials and can now be repurposed to comfort and fortify humanity on the verge of a breakdown," says Van Beirendonck. "Maybe we ~ the privileged ones organising and attending the shows ~ will need to seek refuge."

Since Van Beirendonck first established his own label, his work has always had an experimental edge missing from many other designers' collections

Backstage at Walter Van Beirendonck's
show in Belville
Walter van Beirendonck is one of the most avant-garde designers on the Paris menswear official schedule. His collections are vibrant and graphic with innovative tailoring and surprising colour combinations. Since Van Beirendonck first established his own label in 1983, his work has always had an experimental edge missing from other designers' menswear collections.

"I want to create what is 100% of now," he explained about his latest work, in the show notes."So many "new" collections refer to what came before or are built from pieces sourced from vintage stores,
almost as one-on-one copies.
'Witblitz' was definitely conceived
as this moment in time."

Underpinning the collection's out-there inspiration was a sporty aesthetic in bright, primary colours with an elastic sense of movement combined with the designer's virtuoso tailoring. The athletic ethos was offset by ruffs of dramatic transparent plastic, silky shirts, long coats with voluminous sleeves and suit jackets worn with matching shorts, finished at just above the knee. The retro hair styles and painted faces suggested the aliens had passed through a Seventies phase and seen a Kiss concert at some point of their time on earth.

"I call it Alien Vintage, a fantasy where all of these pieces were originally worn by extra-terrestials and are now re purposed to fortify humanity"

Van Beirendonck describes the process of working on a new collection as wandering around an "ever expanding universe."  For this collection, he says he imagined visiting a friend and outer-space avatar: "As we caught up, I pictured being introduced to a small part of the alien folk, a community with a such a limitless of forms and looks."

Voluminous sleeves and long coats worn
with suited shorts and athletic leggings
Walter Van Beirendonck graduated in 1980 from the Royal Arts Academy in Antwerp, establishing his own brand three years later.

His first real breakthrough was at a British Designer Show in London in 1987 as part of "The Antwerp Six" ~ Dirk Van Saene, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Ann Demeulemeester and Marina Yee.

But Van Beirendonck has since worked on a wide range of projects from costumes for theatre, ballet and film to curating expositions,designing objects and illustrating books and creating clothes for pop groups, including U2's Pop Mart and Erasure tours.

"Every piece of clothing carries its own identity print inside, displaying the names, shapes and characteristics of my otherworldly muses"


The Belgian designer's maverick sense
of creativity took full expression
in his SS20 show
All of this experience in a wide range of mediums means Van Beirendonck brings a maverick sense of creativity to each of his fashion collections and his way of bringing them to life.

"When I started the actual process of drawing and creating this collection, I really wanted to work with experiments of shape," he says about the new collection. "I took pictures of some of the toy-figurines I have been collecting since forever, cut them out and tailored looks to all of the specific forms. Some of these beings have four arms, a gigantic head or O-shaped extremities. Every piece of clothing carries its own identity print inside, displaying the names, shapes and characteristics of my otherworldly muses."

His collections are vibrant and graphic with innovative tailoring and surprising colour combinations

Fashion designer Walter Van Beirendonck
at the finale of his show in Paris 
Some of the pieces have phrases and words on them that were inspired by South African words, for example Witblitz means "white lightening." This is emblazoned on shirts that the designer included in the collection.

"I put South African words on the designs because of their off-centre sounds," explained the designer. "I chose phrases with a multi-layered meaning.

"Some of them refer to the crises we are dealing with at the moment such as the limitation of freedom of choice and the rejection of refugees."



Tap on images for fullscreen slideshow of highlights from the collection
Shown in an atmospheric, post-apocalyptic space in Paris' Belleville, Walter Van Beirendonck's brilliantly-hued new collection provided a vivid foil to the industrial grunge of the locale. 


Since his very first shows, the Belgian designer has been inspired by literature, music, art and nature.


But this season, the creations were inspired by Van Beirendonck's zany vision of vintage clothes of aliens from outer space being worn by humans.


"I call it 'Alien Vintage', a fantasy where all of these pieces were originally worn by extra-terrestials and can now be repurposed to comfort and fortify humanity on the verge of a breakdown," says Van Beirendonck.
Walter Van Beirendonck is one of the most avant-garde designers on the Paris menswear official schedule.
The designer's collections are vibrant and graphic with innovative tailoring and surprising colour combinations.
Since Van Beirendonck first established his own label in 1983, his work has always had an experimental edge missing from other designers' menswear collections.
"I want to create what is 100% of now,"  the designer explained about his latest work. "So many "new" collections refer to what came before or are built from pieces sourced from vintage stores, almost as one-on-one copies."  
Underpinning the collection's out-there inspiration was a sporty aesthetic in bright, primary colours with an elastic sense of movement.
Retro hair styles and painted faces suggested the aliens had passed through a Seventies phase and seen a Kiss concert at some point of their time on earth. 
"When I started the actual process of drawing and creating this collection, I really wanted to work with experiments of shape," the designer says about the new collection.
Backstage after the show as models are photographed.
  "I took pictures of some of the toy-figurines I have been collecting since forever, cut them out and tailored looks to all of the specific forms," says Van Beirendonck, pictured at his show in Paris.
An enthusiastic crowd applauded Walter Van Beirendonck after his SS20 collection was shown at Paris Fashion Week Men.