Thursday, July 25, 2013

Walter Van Beirendonck: Dream The World Awake

Where to begin? I've been struggling to find the words on how truly amazing this retrospective exhibition of Walter Van Beirendonck's archive is since I saw it at the media preview early last week. As I previously mentioned I took over 500 photos that day and since then I've gone back a few times to take the images you see in the gifs in this post, but also to soak it all in and hopefully gather my thoughts. As you can see above, from the moment you walk in it's a visual feast of colour and movement (albeit a lot smoother than in my gif haha) and features pieces dating back from Van Beirendonck s graduate collection in 1980 through to today, a career spanning more than three decades. For those who don't know Walter Van Beirendonck is one of the famed Antwerp Six, a group of influential avant garde fashion designers who graduated from Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts between 1980-1981 (the Antwerp Six also includes the likes of Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten). He is known for his spectacular fashion shows under the W.&L.T. label (Wild & Lethal Trash) which have featured everything from models line dancing to a collection of soft toys sitting front row with celebrities and editors relegated to the back row, as a sort of fuck you to the fashion system. Whilst in town Walter Van Beirendonck gave a series of talks with Chris Dercon, director of London's Tate Modern, and one thing that stood out for me from that was the idea that fashion is not art but rather industrial design ‘Fashion is not art, fashion can use art and art can use fashion but fashion is not art,’ said Dercon. ‘I think that fashion is one of the most important expressions of industrial design.’ Beirendonck agreed. Of course fashion can be creative and artistic, you'd only have to look at this exhibition to see that, but nearly all of the pieces in the exhibition were sold commercially and as such they have a primary function which makes them design. If only all designers were as brave and daring as Walter Van Beirendonck, who works within the commercial restraints of fashion but pushes the boundaries - what a different world it would be.

 photo Walter-Van-Beirendonck-08_zps26bf6c9d.jpg

 photo Walter-Van-Beirendonck-10_zps2ef957ea.jpg

 photo Walter-Van-Beirendonck-07_zpsd3c87b1e.jpg

 photo Walter-Van-Beirendonck-09_zps491331a6.jpg

 photo Walter-Van-Beirendonck-05_zps597d8a04.jpg

 photo Walter-Van-Beirendonck-06_zpsb37b0317.jpg

 photo Walter-Van-Beirendonck-03_zps1a7a7229.jpg

 photo Walter-Van-Beirendonck-01_zps639229e4.jpg
Walter Van Beirendonck at the media preview.

 photo WalterNme_zps0cf00cf2.jpg
I can't believe I got to speak to Walter Van Beirendonck!!! Turns out we had a friend in common - Yann the owner of uber cool Tokyo boutique Wut Berlin who stock Walter Van Beirendonck. I was encouraged as 'media' to ask some questions, and I say the term loosely as I'm no journalist, my blog is just my personal experience, but in this changing world of new media I do try to ask questions relevant to my blog and readership. That's why I asked former Spice Girl Mel B about platform sneakers (the only person at the press conference to do so, most others were about her weight and Jenny Craig ad - snooze fest, I wanna know about her shoes from the Spice Girl days!!!) and why I asked Walter Van Beirendonck about Tokyo, where in the late 90s early 00s he had a W.&L.T. store and was heavily featured in FRUiTS magazine. He said that being featured in FRUiTS was more important than being in any fashion editorial in Japan at the time as it really translated to sales in the country - which is very interesting now with the popularity of street style and personal style blogs around the world don't you think? FYI the photo was taken by my talented photographer friend Elliot Lauren, thanks for capturing the moment so perfectly Elliot.

 photo Walter-Van-Beirendonck-02_zps73a44bba.jpg
RMIT fashion students arrived at the media preview as a 'student runway' paying homage to the great designer whilst showcasing their own designs.

 photo Walter-Van-Beirendonck-04_zpsa53e9140.jpg
So much creativity and most importantly SWAG.

 photo Street-style05_zpsdf7a3e8e.jpg

 photo Street-style06_zpsec54168e.jpg

 photo Street-style07_zps2e384d64.jpg

 photo Street-style01_zps9f55cfc4.jpg

 photo Street-style03_zps19dc449b.jpg

 photo Street-style04_zpsd8286062.jpg

 photo Street-style02_zps1ca4c437.jpg
I can't get over how good all the students looked.

 photo Walter-Fruits01_zpsb1230705.jpg
My first experience with Walter Van Beirendonck is seeing his clothes in the first issues of FRUiTS magazine I bought back in 2001 as a 16 year old and wanting desperately to see them or buy them in person. I would see the W.&L.T. shopping bag above all the time in every issue and think to myself I needed to go to that shop pronto. Sadly by the time I did get over to Tokyo in 2003 it was closed and all my original FRUiTS magazines from the time were stolen, but I do have the FRUiTS book which is where I got these Harajuku street style images, dating from around 1999-2000 of people wearing W.&L.T. Above to the left is Sakatch who wears a t-shirt, long t-shirt and bag all by W.&L.T. and over the page is Mizutchi whose bag is W.&L.T.

 photo Walter-Fruits02_zps5d4b3a92.jpg
Saori on the left wears a W.&L.T. 'Puk Puk' bag and over the page to the left Youyou wears the same character but in dress form.

 photo Walter-Fruits03_zpsc0dac5ad.jpg
Puk Puk was obviously a popular design in anime character obsessed Japan, where even the police have a cute mascot!!! To the left Hirohide wears a Puk Puk shirt and bag by W.&L.T. and over the page Inachi's backpack and shopping bag are by W.&L.T.

 photo Walter-Fruits04_zps9cbde878.jpg
Archin and Masabo are both wearing W.&L.T. bags and over the page Hi to the left is wearing a W.&L.T. shirt. I think seeing Walter Van Beirendonck's clothes being worn outside of a gallery space makes them see all that more wearable, less like art and more like the the functional industrial design he sees his work as.

Walter Van Beirendonck: Dream The World Awake
RMIT Design Hub
Tuesday to Friday: 11am - 6pm 
Saturday: 12pm – 5pm
Open until 5th October 2013


  1. Replies
    1. Oh no, don't die! Where will I stay in Radelaide now?


  2. Wonderful review of a marvellous exhibition !!!!

    1. Thank you, it really is marvellous. I think I'm going to visit at least once a week while it's on haha x

  3. While I may not have any pieces by the Antwerp six hanging in my closet, more's the shame, I appreciate the work of these avant garde designers precisely because they push boundaries. There is, after all, only so much black and white and grey one can see before the eyes beg for a dose of colour and print and texture. Of course the photos of the RMIT students and the Harajuku street style shots are also good for one's sartorial soul.


    1. I too don't own any pieces by the Antwerp Six but at least I can pop down to see Waleter's work for the next few months for free for that dose of colour, print and texture whoch I agree is good for one's sartorial soul.

  4. I loved it!!!! Beautiful as always.

    1. Thank you, if you're in town you should check it out x

  5. Why am I not in Australia right now?!? I'd love to see this exhibition!

    1. It's on for a few more months, there is time haha x

  6. After looking at this post for probably the fifth time, I need to leave a comment. the exhibition is amazing, wish I could see it too. But even more amazing are the street styles you shot. I I am in awe. It's one thing to see wonderful fashion in a museum, but I still think the best is to see it in real life. These people can really beat Tokyo for sure! Somehow I am getting really sad, because there is not a single person like this in the whole country I life, I am almost sure about that. This post sticked so much in my head, I even dreamed about it and visited the exhibition with you. It was a wonderful dream and we had a lot of fun. Thank you so much for it, this is the first post ever that made it into my dreams. <3

    1. Oh wow my post was in your dreams, I feel so special haha. But yes, Melbourne is amazing for street style but remember this isn't an every day occurrence and that these were fashion students who have the time and inclination to dress creatively. I'm sure fashion students where you live would do the same? Melbourne is amazing though, it's a city bursting with creativity, you would love it x

  7. AMAZING I have that fruits book practically memorized, oh ~16 year old me ~
    I haven't checked your blog in a while, like YEARS, (I was in tokyo in 2008 and obsessed with japanese fashion blogs back then) but you are looking rad in your tie dye and flower headbands :) keep it up grrl


Thank you for taking the time to leave me a message but remember to play nice!