There was little to distract from the Dutch powerhouse's superior tailoring, even in the face – pun intended considering how many appeared through deftly placed holess – of his whimsical use of color and streaming ribbons. So far, so Walter.
Just like the Hatter in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, no one knows why a raven is like a writing desk. That insolvable riddle served as the theme of Walter van Beirendock's Spring 17 show, which went against the utilitarian sportswear grain of what's been shown so far this session.
A steel fist in a kid glove, van Beirendonck's messages come across loud, clear and wrapped in disquieting saccharine. This season, he is still angry but seemed to acknowledge a form of inevitable destruction, hinted in the messages peppered on garments. "Brutal Beauty", "Reflection Through Destruction" spoke of the unraveling that has WvB up in arms. You're tied down by fetters of your own making whispered suits bound up in matching utility straps. You don't see they're here and you won't be able to think until you're left with nothing ground a face constructed of combs and other plastic elements.
"Future Folk", the lightest of the three seasonal messages, could be taken two ways: one, as a hint that the future could still be saved; two, that the floatsam and jetsam of today would be, post-apocalypse, be reused as a form of arte povera. The tchotchkes that form today's little luxuries reborn as totemic chest plates. Certainly in today's world, the craftsmanship – such as the traditional Dutch stipwerk which he used in a W-emblazoned variation – can feel outmoded, taking on new meaning in new hands, like these fantastic tailored coats with the W worked into the pattern. There was little to distract from the Dutch powerhouse's superior tailoring, even in the face – pun intended considering how many appeared through deftly placed holess – of his whimsical use of color and streaming ribbons. So far, so Walter.
Just like the innocuous and yet blind-siding questions that children sometimes ask, WvB's creations are a powerful statement, for all their childlike colorfulness. Not only is he a master tailor able to construct and destructure any sartorial garment, he punches holes in our certitudes. There is no wonder he has nurtured many of the top creatives of today in his roles at the Royal Academy in Antwerp. Like a Jesuit, he teaches not the answers but the right questions.