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From the moment Walter Van Beirendonck graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp back in 1980, the larger-than-life character and original Antwerp Six-er’s strong graphics, innovative cuts and irreverent approach to fashion has continually shocked, surprised, seduced and left us questioning the world around us. The fiercely independent Antwerp-based designer had been creating improbable, imagination-igniting menswear for more than four decades. But for those of you who grew up online, how much of this bearded maverick’s pre-internet provocative power are you aware of? While his influence can be felt across an entire generation of designers and a new generation of consumer seeks out designs from his archive, there’s no better time to celebrate his design legacy. For LN-CC ARCHIVE, Walter has chosen ten looks from ten seasons, across 29 years – from WORLDWIDE by Walter spring/summer 90 through to Walter Van Beirendonck autumn/winter 19 – which will be sold as full looks for ten days only. To celebrate the launch, LN-CC invited London-based photographer and filmmaker Jurga Ramonaite inside our studio to shoot these moments of fashion history.
In these 10 looks selected for ARCHIVE 01, it’s clear that Walter’s ideas, identity and ingenuity are products of his ever-expanding multiverse, rather than a wardrobe of linear progression. His past informs his present, and history gives form and meaning to what’s next. Meanings may morph and silhouettes may shift but this is Walter Van Beirendonck’s world then, now and forever.
“He's every bit as significant as Kawakubo, in that he completely exploded the idea of what fashion could be: what it could reference, what it could mean, how it could look,” Rob Nowill, Hypebeast’s Managing Editor explains over email. “And he's even more of an outlier today: a designer without cynicism. It's not 'merch', it's design.” When Walter began his career in 1982, at just 25, he instantly set about disrupting, distorting and dismantling the hegemonic codes of masculinity and formality that dominated European menswear and he hasn’t looked back since. Alongside Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Marina Yee, Dirk Bikkembergs and Dirk Van Saene, Walter established the city of Antwerp and its Royal Fashion Academy as one of the fashion centres of the 80s, 90s, 00s and beyond.
“It takes a great deal of intelligence, taste, and talent to play with humour, sex and absurdity, in the way that he does,” Rob adds. “He makes a lot of other designers look awfully joyless.” Optimistic yet anarchistic, naive yet hardcore, free yet bondaged, Walter is anything but joyless. “There simply isn’t another soul in fashion with Walter’s ability to blend the joyous and the ominous,” Tim Blanks, Business of Fashion Editor-at-Large, declared in last season’s review. “I love his colourful designs, his sense of humour, his vision, his early use of the internet with his Puk Puk mascot, and especially his relentless support of other creative talents, which eventually led to him becoming director of the fashion department of the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts,” Ninette Murke, Designers Against Aids and Beauty Without Irony founder, declares over email. As an Antwerp-based fashion editor between 1990 and 2005, Ninette and Walter continually crossed paths, as they became friends and Ninette’s then 12-year-old daughter, Noona, even walked a show. “I find him super friendly, although some people think he’s scary,” she continues, “they think the same about me - we’re both true Aquarians.”
Photography Jurga Ramonaite (@jurrga)
Styling Stephanie Aelbrecht (@stephanie_aelbrecht)
Make-up Sophie Moore (@sophiegiamoore)
Models Emmanuel Mugabo (@manimuga)
and Bailey Marshall (@baileymrhll)
both Contact (@contact.agency)