Van Beirendonck is a talent
It is not very recent that the days when men’s fashion were limited to the Victorian-era style became long gone, except for a great number of brave and stylish men who never restrict themselves to only shirts, pants, suits and ties.
Some, or should I say the majority of men today, still follow the heterosexual mentality uniform preached by magazines like the dead Men’s Vogue or the boring GQ and Esquire. I wonder what these fashion editors would do if we were sent back in time to the French Revolution? Must I remind you that we “officially” once had the free option of wearing heels, makeup, wigs, skirts … I don’t want to be too cynical; I do believe in any freedom of expression when it comes to fashion, and although I still prefer that men don’t wear Birkin bags, I am so very thankful when designers don’t follow the norm when they create for men.
The Paris Men’s Fashion Week collections, for me, are a constant reminder that tradition and vision are side by side on the search to conquer that specific rich male and growing existing market (no longer limited and restricted to offices attire only) visually glorified by a lifestyle owned by athletes, metrosexual moguls and confident men who want to express themselves. Yes, these new modern-Gatsby heroes like color now. And, when designers opt to unite fashion and art in this masculine arena, the results are so inspiring simply because mostly these two are so ever-present in the women’s fashion scene through collaborations or just divine inspiration.
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Who doesn’t remember the Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress collection? Or designer Marc Jacobs, who during his successful stay at Louis Vuitton, enchanted us with collaborations with super artists from Stephen Sprouse’s graffiti and Takashi Murakami’s animated motifs to Richard Prince. Jacobs still found energy to give us the 2016 collaboration with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and her trademark dots. There are so many more other examples, but in my book, the marriage of art and fashion can truly be summed up in the superb moment created from inspiration from an installation by artist Rebecca Horn of two machine guns firing paint at each other and perfectly executed by Shalom Harlow at the Alexander McQueen SS RTW in 1999. So brilliant!
Atwerpian designer Walter Van Beirendonck and American artist Scooter LaForge are also a fruit of this modern technology. These talented men separated by an ocean and united by social media (they met on Facebook two years ago) joined forces once again in the Paris catwalk. In 2013, Van Beirendonck had requested LaForge create an image for the invitation to his summer 2016 Home Sweet Home show collection.
This year, Van Beirendonck went beyond the show’s paper invitation and asked LaForge to create images based on 10 words that, according to the designer, described his new collection “Wham Bam!”
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“Cargo cult, orange slices, machine guns, Papua and 1930s surrealism” were some of the words that inspired LaForge to come up with 20 images he sent to the designer. Van Beirendonck’s collection was a sophisticated message of protection of native tribes by an already-mature designer who uniquely can manage to mix dark elements and beauty translated in a way that leaves us wanting for more. It was a perfect fashionable war on the catwalk that involved sharks, guns, karate belts, military prints, gorgeous tapestry on kimono shapes, brocade jackets and rich and unexpected geometric figures. Surrealism combined with perfect camouflage took over when models appeared wearing beaks that bifurcated their faces. It was great work by makeup artist Inge Grognard.
Besides great highlights, like the combination of jackets and pants where both works collide, the collaboration between Van Beirendonck and LaForge was extremely well-consummated on the body suit with a shirt over, printed with bird of paradise and shark images combined with the Van Beirendonck’s geometrics designs. That fun, colorful, masculine and yet gentile, aggressive representation of a very real fantasy is a confirmation why their association makes sense, and how smart and generously Van Beirendonck choose to present it in some pieces of his collection. The question burning now in Paris is the third time’s really a charm, right?