See the lookbook of Walter Van Beirendonck Menswear Spring/Summer 2021 Paris
Walter Van Beirendonck worked with his former student, Tokyo-based Eli Effenberger to make this excellent collection presentation video and portfolio. Pre-Zooming, he said: “I was inspired by what the couturiers did after the war, the “Théâtre de la Mode.”… So we made the collection in miniature and dressed them on gold dolls, with makeup and everything…and really that was the only way I could do it at the moment. Because we are still making our final garments, which will be in the digital showroom next week.”
The designer presented his collection in miniature on dolls.
Like Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior, van Beirendonck’s mind went to the Théâtre de la Mode, a traveling exhibit after the Second World War featuring small mannequins wearing designer creations.
“At the time there was also a lack of material, and the Paris designers couldn’t work with normal mannequins,” Van Beirendonck said. “So I took that idea as the starting point. We made the complete collection in miniature.”
After he mentioned that the collection is entitled Mirror, references shamanistic practice, and contains panels of mirrored fabric, I wondered if Walter had made an all-mirrored look. “No, because I created 22 looks and they’re all very wearable,” he said. “I didn’t want to do something difficult to put on.”
The ghostly, diffused-color sprayed cowl tops in fringed polyester appeared utterly shaman-appropriate, and rave-ready—for whenever that might safely happen again—as did the animalia-flecked cycling pieces. The notions of reflection and transcendence alluded to in his title and those panels also looked right on the money for this moment. Looking at the garments as made in miniature, it was interesting to note the scaled-up texture of the drill and fringing.
For most designers in the spectrum, this collection would count at bold. However Van Beirendonck is beloved for a boldness so consistent that this collection appeared rather restrained. As he observed: “To do something very extreme could have been too much. For me, this is a time to concentrate on the reality.” Concentrating on reality is absolutely the right way to do things right now. But a satisfying aspect of Van Beirendonck’s work is that his pieces look party-ready even in the most parlous times.
Van Beirendonck dubbed the collection “Mirror,” which brought to mind mirrors used in shaman rituals. “It’s also kind of an entrance to a new world,” he said. “I had a feeling that would fit very well in the atmosphere of today.”
It did. There were 22 looks, with some featuring removable mirrors. Mirrors gave that parka a stiff aspect.
Van Beirendonck conceived “ghost prints” appearing on pieces like a mesh shirt. “With all the skin discussions going on, I wanted to work with blue and pink — very surreal body colors,” he explained.
The designer used polyester from Japan for suits, giving a crisp, sharp silhouette. Conversely, voluminous outerwear was made of fringed nylon resembling fur.
The collection was abbreviated, yet complete, and allowed for Van Beirendonck’s deft hand to shine through.