Saturday, 14 September 2013

Walter Van Beirendonck; black leather dress, early history!

Hello wonderful '99ers!
As you know, or maybe don't, but do now ;), in 2009 I lived in Antwerp (en), and it was amazing. I worked with A.F Vandevorst through a season and half and then helped put together the exhibition Masters of Black in Fashion and Costume which was shown in 2010.
One freezing winter evening I had to go to collect some Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto acquisitions from a German woman whose name escapes me now. Her shop/house was way down south in Antwerp but the tram stopped right outside. I carried those goodies like my life depended on it, and I promise you I did not try them on as they stayed with me overnight in my room before being officially donated the following day, no matter how much I was tempted!
A few weeks went by, and my friend Michelle came to visit from Milano just before I was due to return back to Australia. An avid lover of fashion, as any Milanese should be, Michelle and I went shopping, or rather, looking at expensive clothes. We ended up at Jutka & Riska, a rather well known vintage designer store on the Nationalestraat, ironically almost opposite the MoMu.
Michelle found a few things to try on while of course I went casually looking around, not as interested as I maybe should have been, but something caught my eye; a long sleek black leather dress with long sleeves, epaulettes on the shoulders and pretty much completely open back, gorgeous.
I whooshed it out of the rack and looked at the tag.
'Walter van Beirendonck leather dress' (the Flemish escapes me..). What? How? Who? When? Black leather? How uncharacteristic!
I said to Michelle, you must try this on and we must take photos!!

As it was a Saturday I explained my involvement with the MoMu to the girl at the counter and asked if the dress could be put aside so that we might be able to research the matter a bit further and perhaps procure it for the collection.
And so it was that I took my evidence to Kaat, the wonderful aforementioned (in the previous post..) director of the museum, who took it upstairs to the man himself (or maybe he came down to see her, the particulars I don't recall), and found out that the dress had been made for a runway show sometime between his graduating from the Academie and the official launch of the Walter van Beirendonck label, and that it had been bought by none other than the fabulous German lady whose name still escapes me! Over the course of her selling off/donating her collection it had clearly ended up at the vintage shop for me to find!
Voila! With provenance and all, I believe the piece did find its way into the archive of the museum, to be stored and kept for the posterity of the Belgian fashion movement!
Now, back to 2013!
I admit I was so wrapped by the 'Dream the World Awake' exhibition that I just had to go back again, in the company of my lovely mother (afterwards we had coffee, it was sweet haha). Trust me, like I said in the previous shpiel, go again, and again, and again! I saw things I didn't even notice, and noticed that one of my favourite silhouettes had actually been removed! (deterioration, runway sample, international travel and wearing by different models, latex falling apart, etc etc etc).
This time I took some care to look at a few of the video loops, and lo and behold, there it was, well a version of! In 1982, entitled Walter Van Beirendonck 'Multidimensional', was the series of puffy white tops. The middle model took off the top to reveal a well constructed leather bondage harness, and I realised I may just see the dress I've been prattling on about for the last few paragraphs!
Down came the lights, up again, onto a series of black leather coats, military details and all! Lights down, up again, and there is was, hair swept to the side and face harness on, was a long sleeved (knee length) black leather dress with epaulettes. I felt the anticipation of the 'turn around', and there it was! completely open back! I imagine Ms German wanted it full length, hence the difference between 'my' dress and the runway piece, but still, close enough haha. Please excuse the grainy iPhone shots in the dark, from a film from 1982, I realise they are pretty lo-fi, but hey, so was the whole experience! :)

Ladies and gentleman (if you're reading), the dress and I had come full circle and I hope all is well with it!
See the exhibition, urging again. ;)

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