Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Walter Van Beirendonck Dream The World Awake!

Halloooo '99ers!
I seem to be in an exhibition mode and am always excited to share with you. During my European visit not long ago, a bevvy of interesting and important people swapped sides of the world with me and made their way down to Melbourne.
I am aware this happens all the time, but this time it was a particularly mad affair as it was none other than the wonderful Walter Van Beirendonck; the wild and lethal conscientious fashion bear, the head of Fashion at the Royal Academy in Antwerp and of course one of the original Antwerp 6! Accompanied by his partner in crime and fashion and fellow 6-ian Dirk Van Saene and the amazing Kaat Debo, director of the MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp, who I personally know has an incredible Belgian designer wardrobe and looks fab in it, not to mention has curated some of the most awesome fashion exhibitions of all time.

The exhibition, entitled 'Dream the World Awake', is a retrospective of Walter's grand career in fashion, beginning with a dress from his graduate collection in 1980 and then in a seemingly chaotic manner takes us right through to a silhouette from the most recent winter 13/14 collection. I write seemingly as with anything that Walter does there is consideration of every last detail in the cacophony, both aural and visual. As the first major fashion exhibition to be presented at the new Design Hub at RMIT, the exhibition was brought directly from Antwerp's amazing MoMu, where you know I spent some time at working on another exhibition in 2009. Already then the wheels were set in motion for this exhibition which was first shown in 2011.

Bono's Godzilla feet in from the Pop Mart world tour 1997, wow.

Collaboration with Erwin Wurm, reminds me of the petal ruffle looks by Junya Watanabe and Hussein Chalayan, but those were on women, tres different!

What I think is wonderful is that we here in faraway Melbourne didn't get some abridged half baked version, but in fact pretty much the entire show has come from Belgium and been reconfigured for maximum bang! in the current space. And (after naughtily checking out some pics of the show in Antwerp) I wonder if maybe this time the way its presented here might actually pack more of a punch?!
The entry room has costumes from U2, a collaboration with artist Erwin Wurm and an incredibly long mural of models in Walter's clothes in no order. This excites already as there is no need for a chronological or thematic display when it comes to his work, it all just fits in together and the themes run through from year to year, collection to collection, though with remarkably different results each time. Then, as you come down the stairs of the actually rather eerie building, you turn right and are thrust right into the middle of the action!

Graduate collection leather dress. All the signatures were there waiting to be released!

There are basically two long long rooms filled with mannequins on towering pillars. All of them are at different heights, the majority rotate, and none do so at the same angle, so the silhouettes we see are never facing the same direction. You never know what to look at next, or last, or wow, didn't see that detail, and distracted by the next mask, or shiny panel, or beautiful applique. Added to that there are about 40 of these right next to each other and there isn't much room to step back as the space is quite narrow; you are literally IN the exhibition. Intense! The wall on the other side is floor to ceiling an enlarged version of Walter's 'scrapbooks', where he cuts and pastes images, phrases, words, textures, creating the mood for the collection before he draws the actual silhouettes. Amazing to really see into another designer's though process which is so different to mine!
Now if you weren't aware, this isn't all whizz bang colour and print and tom foolery. No indeed! Walter is a superb cutter and the tailoring is beautifully formed and nods at traditional techniques which is obvious that Walter knows but chooses to subvert and explode. The man is master with the elements of design, fusing colour, texture, fabrication and fit in a way that only he can, a more is more is more aesthetic. 3D elements, embroidery, knit and leather are all used and utilised with precision, a word we like to associate with minimalism. Of course here we have the ultimate 'maximalist', which to me is interesting as in person Walter seems rather an introvert when his work is anything but.

From A/W 13/14, with many references to David Bowie.

Aliens, a recurring and wonderful theme in Walter's work.

Beautiful embroidery shows Walter's depth of design.

And here some amazing feats of construction!

And intricacy of cut.

Environmentally minded :)

Backpack raincoat from 199-something.

A bit of breathing space in the centre room where Walter's toy collection is shown on wooden shelving and carpet with a cartoon version of the man himself. A good way to prepare for the next room, the 'dark room' I say. Same presentation, but in very low light and looking at the darker, more lurid and sexual side of Walter's work. This time on the opposing wall are screens showing loops of different shows, soundtrack and all, from the designer's past. In combination all the sounds create a highly tense and as I said before, cacophonous atmosphere which works with designs chosen for this room.

Remember Gaga's 'implants', thank you Walter in 1998, and thank you ORLAN!

The cock rocket!


Happened to see the wonderful David Flamee, model and MoMu man now :)

And then its over. Well, not if, like me, you turn around, walk back to the beginning, and see it all again picking up on things you never saw before. Go again I say, and again, and a third time, its stunning!!

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