Friday 24 June 2022

Parish Fashion Week: Walter Van Beirendonck Spring/Summer 2023

Brilliant colours, unique silhouettes and wonderful sleeves at Walter Van Beirendock's Spring/Summer 2023 show in Paris. Cover picture and all photographs by Elli Ioannou for DAM.
Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck's avant-garde and provocative shows are a standout at Paris Fashion week. Post-pandemic he has brought his latest work alive in a historic theatre with a two-act performance that ranged across history, evoking Italy's Black Penitents to Elizabethan doublets, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Elli Ioannou

The shrouded figures that opened the show
at the Théâtre de la Madeleine in Paris.
WALTER Van Beirendonck's evocative runway show opened amid the jewel-box surroundings of the 1924 Théâtre de la Madeleine, in Paris' 8th arrondissement. Appearing on the stage in the darkened auditorium were a row of dark, shrouded figures.

They looked like 12th century ascetic Italian Black Penitents, or Addolorati, known for wearing robes and pointed hoods during public processions on Catholic holy days, such as Good Friday, and disguising their identity.

However, at Mr Van Beirendonck's show once the black robes were mysteriously swished upwards above the theatre's proscenium, they revealed ~ one-by-one ~ a panoply of brilliant colours and startling silhouettes in emerald green, mauve, buttercup-yellow and metallic gold. The models sported a wild take on 18th century curled wigs which gave the looks both a contemporary aesthetic but also suggested Macaroni; young men famous for their effeminate dress, exaggerating 1700s style and starting new fashions. 

The highlight of the show, if not of Paris Fashion Week, were Mr Van Beirendonck's voluminous sleeves based on 17th century doublets. They looked remarkably evocative with slits for ruffles to flow through and undulating shoulders. He showed different iterations with metallic ruffles revealed between orange scalloped edges and green pleats peeking through the sleeves of cream bomber jacket.

The highlight of the show, if not of Paris Fashion Week, were Mr Van Beirendonck's voluminous sleeves based on the 17th century doublet

The designer's contemporary doublet
sleeve with metallic ruffles.
The doublet was originally designed to give men a fashionable shape and it was worn and redesigned for 
300 years from the Middle ages until the 1600s. A typical sleeve of the 17th century was full and slashed to show the shirt beneath; a later style was slit to just below the elbow and tight on the forearm. 

Mr Van Beirendonck has taken the doublet and reimagined it, making it wearable for our era, Beneath 
the dramatic show and medley of colour is the designer's remarkable skill at tailoring along with a unique avant-garde vision for menswear. 

Decorative ribbon points were pulled through eyelets on breeches in the 17th century and the waist of the doublet to keep the breeches in place were tied in elaborate bows. Walter Van Beirendonck created another version with his knickerbockers finished with rows of ties and ribbons.

This Spring/Summer 2023 collection also had more sporty designs that combined vivid lycra unitards in bold patterns with gleaming damask blazers and metallic green shoes that also suggested 17th century court footwear. Capes, gold medallions and black-banded eyes like masks gave the designs in the second act the look of modern fashion superheroes.

The beautifully-cut shirts with full, ruffled sleeves displayed the designer's brilliant tailoring along with the sharp jackets and long coats. The scintillating colours and interesting shapes were all explorations of the same themes, giving the collection a sense of cohesion amid the different designs. 

While the collection was exuberant, when Walter Van Beirendonck made his bow during the finale, he wore a large and simple t-shirt adorned with the word “Peace,” combined with green shorts and orange runners. But chunky rings adorning his fingers gave away his innovative and graphic baroque sensibility.

Scroll down to see highlights of the Walter Van Beirendonck Spring/Summer 2023

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