Walter Van Beirendonck returned last night with a collection as ingenious, disconcerting and downright outrageous as we’ve come to expect from the enfant terrible of Belgian fashion. Luminous cut-outs, gentile duck patterns, Prince of Wales check and skeletal masks were just some of the unexpected threads running throughout his off-kilter SS19 collection — captured exclusively for SLEEK by Laure Atanasyan. The scene was set with the opening ensemble: a fluorescent yellow two-piece — itself a fetishistic reimagining of a construction worker’s garb — complete with cartoonish clogs and boy scout patches bearing words and slogans, such as “Riot”, “Trans Human”, and the collection’s title, “Wild is the Wind”. Needless to say, wild it certainly was.
“You’re spring to me”, sings Nina Simone in the achingly-romantic title track (versions by David Bowie and George Michael soundtracked the show also). The tender nature of the music might have been incongrous alongside Van Beirendonck’s brash and outré outfits it it weren’t for the sensitivity and care that he injects his designs with. Employing the motif of the skeleton throughout, he cut away at garments to fashion ribcages out of fabrics in zingy shades — playfully mirrored in the actual skeletal suits that popped up mid-way through. Meanwhile, the out-in-the-wild, boy scout theme was continued with sporadic feathers, patchwork prints, rigid materials, and baseball caps cheekily bedecked with peace sign fingers. It was a sartorial spectacle best-termed Moonrise Kingdom meets the theatre of the absurd.
On first glance, Van Beirendonck’s latest collection might be construed as an innocuous and good humoured exercise in bright colour and deconstructed form. But, there’s more going on here than what might have initially been perceived. In one look, Van Beirendonck attaches a miniature placard reading, “Hell to the Liars”, to a cut-away waistcoat — a nod perhaps to our current climate of fake news and deceptive politics in the age of Trump. If it’s not exactly clear what cohesive statement Van Beirendock is trying to make with “Wild is the Wind”, it certainly isn’t one that gives itself up to easy definition. In another ensemble, he pairs a transparent would-be hoodie emblazoned with green geese and alienoid cows with a lime green polo neck, sapphire satin trousers and superhero sunglasses — it doesn’t make sense and it’s not supposed to. In a world where almost everything is reduced to neat and easy description, Van Beirendonck is resisting the trend.