Ever since last season when I compared Walter Van Beirendonck‘s collection to Leigh Bowery I’ve become a little obsessed with the most outlandish of the Antwerp Six. I found myself revisiting that collection again and again to stare lovingly at the looks. Needless to say I was desperate to see what he had in store for Autumn 2012, and I wasn’t disappointed… Bobble hats, bow-ties and gloves, standard Autumn/Winter stuff right? Well no, not in Beirendonck land.
Masks were worn by every model in the show, but these were no ordinary masks. Rendered in plastic the masks were pastel coloured or in a clinical flesh tone. Effectively they turned every outfit into a bafflingly avant-garde masterpiece. The show was entitled “Lust Never Sleeps” so there’s a clear element of fetishism at play, as some of the more traditional black leather S&M masks testify, but Beirendonck has transcended the traditional notion of fetish. Chains, padlocks and sinister walking sticks (or are they weapons?) cut through the kaleidoscope of graphic crayoa bright colours to add a dimension of sexuality and danger to what might otherwise look twee and childish.
The juxtaposition of rubber fabrics and candy colours subverts and challenges the traditional perceptions of fetish wear. The colour palette (while of the scale of what most designers would consider using for one collection) is impressive enough on its own, for Beirendonck even that’s not enough. Have you noticed the gloves? The rubber is offset with little tufts of fur in place of fingernails. Mixing the organic with the inorganic, the synthetic with the natural might add whimsy but it’s ultimately (and thrillingly) unsettling.
Of course if we strip away the more outlandish details there are plenty of beautiful wearable stand alone items. Suits, jumpers, shirts and shoes that could be mixed and matched with everyday clothes. But then that takes the fun out of it. It’s impossible to look at a collection like this and spot ‘trends’ like you can with most designers, but that’s just because of Beirendonck’s singularly unique aesthetic. That’s one of the reason’s why I know I’ll be coming back to look at this collection again and again, until the next one that is.
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