An interview the Belgian designer Walter van Beirendonck. And watch the latest collection – Fall 2012-13 – here.
He is an icon of the 1990′s Years. With his creations, he added the fashion of this decade from the club to the international catwalks in the world. Since more than 30 years he is working in the fashion circus.
We sincerely hope that Walter van Bereindonck will survive for a long time with his genius,colorful design in our world. His Fall 2012-2013 is, like always, great. We love the colour, lots of orange, green, yellow, mixed together. Also the styling for his show is unique and we don´t know if we love the collection or the mask a little bit more. Well done Mister Van Beirendonck.
Let´s have a chat with the „Master of Colors“
about his way in 30 years of fashion!
KALTBLUT: Hello Walter, we at KALTBLUT are big fans of your designs, your art and your work, so thank you for taking the time to speak to us.. Why did you decided to become a fashion designer? Was it a growing passion from early age, inspired by someone or something? Or did it come as a sudden revelation?
Walter: : Thank you! Well, it all came about very unexpectedly. I had always liked to draw and to paint, and I certainly did feel an attraction towards clothes in general. But then I became a big fan of David Bowie; I was really amazed by his looks, but more than anything by the storytelling, the fantasy element, the communication conveyed through his looks and personality. That, together with a visit to the Royal Academy in Antwerp, and seeing one of their fashion shows, was the start of my fashion-career.
KALTBLUT: In 1980 you graduated from the Royal Arts Academy in Antwerp and you became a member of the famed “Antwerp Six“. How did this group come about? What has driven you?
Walter: This was totally unplanned. We were a close group of friends at school, all graduating at the same time. We were young and ambitious and after several years in school, we were desperate to get out of Belgium. That’s why we went to London together, to present our collections at the British Design show. This is where we were discovered and named: “the Antwerp Six”, mainly because our names were too difficult to pronounce.
KALTBLUT: During this time you got a lot of publicity from being part of this hyped group. Did you enjoy it or would you rather have been recognized as a solo designer?
Walter: It was a nice period in my career, and being united in a group gave us ALL a lot of energy and inspiration, as well as attract press and buyers. We learnt a lot by being together! Although we NEVER worked together in terms of our designs etc. The six of us were a group of SOLO-designers: everybody had their own distinctive signature style!
KALTBLUT: You started your solo career as a designer in the late 1980s. How easy or hard was it to build up your own company and label after being part of a group?
Walter: It was, and still is, a career with ups and downs, a roller-coaster-ride some might say, but because of my belief in my fashion designs and in myself, I never skipped a season. Which was not the easiest to achieve, but I believe it has helped me a lot.
KALTBLUT: I remember that the first fashion item I ever bought, beside pieces from H&M, was a pair of trousers from your label W<. I had saved up for weeks to buy it and those trousers were my greatest treasure! In the 1990s, you became very successful. How did you experience this time: being a star of the fashion world?
Walter: Great to hear this, I always appreciate it when people enjoy my clothes. Do you still have the trousers? It took a long time before I achieved success. I was by then a mature man. That’s why I experienced it in a very realistic way, with both feet on the ground so to speak. I liked that period very much, especially as I had fantastic opportunities to do the most amazing shows, collections and experiments, which was fabulous. W< also had a huge number of fans all over the world, and it sold like crazy, which was really exciting! Than at the end of the 90s, Mustang (backer of W<) wanted to milk the cow, and product managers got involved, telling me what to do etc….. then I decided it was time for me to step out of it…. and I broke my contract with them.
KALTBLUT: Looking back at your fashions shows in Paris during this time, they where spectacular. No one at the time had seen that before. Who created these shows? Did it all come out of your own mind and inspiration?
Walter: YES! Everything! I had (and still have) a great time realizing it, but ALL ideas (from head to toe) came out of my head. Now and then, I draw the total looks for my collections, all styling including make-up/ hair / accessories etc.
KALTBLUT: Who is Walter Van Beirendonck as a designer? How would you describe your designs?
Walter: Despite the fact that the first impression you get when looking at my collections is of color and fun, I do invest a lot of energy and research in the stories I want to tell, the statements I want to make, and the messages I want to communicate. So there is always a second (more loaded) layer in the collection. This makes me a designer with a recognizable signature, one who is ready to push the boundaries. In am not afraid to do it my way.
KALTBLUT: When I look at your designs, I see colors, colors and more colors. Where is this passion for colors coming from?
Walter: From day one, when I started to study fashion, I liked and used colors a lot. For me, they are part of how I express my ideas in the collections. Most of the colors and fabrics I use are especially dyed and made for me.
Dream The World Awake
KALTBLUT: Which is your favorite color?
Walter: Light pink + grass-green, orange + lilac, red + Aruba-blue… As you can see, it is difficult for me to choose.
KALTBLUT: Can you tell us the role that masculinity plays in your design?
Walter: From collection one (Bad Baby Boys), I concentrated on men’s wear because for me men’s wear is more challenging. And I do love the thin line, the boundaries I’m pushing. That’s exactly why masculinity is so important. Despite the fact that I DO push the boundaries of men’s fashion, I let them stay men. Keeping a balance is really important for me, even when it looks far out there for the audience.
KALTBLUT: Did you ever create a collection that you just hated? How did you learn and move forward from that?
Walter: NO, I love them all! Sometimes I recognize mistakes in them, but they all had a reason to be there.
KALTBLUT: What is your personal favorite piece you have ever done? And why?
Walter: My BLOW-UP muscle-jackets, because I did the first drawings of them at the end of the 80s, but I didn’t have the possibility to realize them then. When I finally made them in the mid-90s, and sold them now they have become priceless collectors’ items! BLOW YOUR MUSCLES! Awesome!
KALTBLUT: Lots of fashion designers are using famous pop stars, actors etc. for their labels. I don’t understand why? I don’t know anybody who will wear a shirt just because Nicole Kidman was wearing it in a campaign. What do you think about this kind of PR?
Walter: I never miss-USED that PR-idea, but of course it flatters me if interesting ‘stars’ like what I do. And when such a cooperation happens spontaneously I don’t mind it. For example: U2 / BONO, Mika, Bjork, Kanye West….
KALTBLUT: Do you think that fashion is excessive and egocentric?
Walter: NO, fashion is a communicator, it can express feelings and can be fun. It´s a powerful medium to transfer ideas and statements through.
KALTBLUT: What are you very bad at?
Walter: Earning money… I always believe the best about people, that’s why a lot of my collaborations ended badly. I always want to present the best of myself, so all the money I earn I put back into new projects. I have always dreamt about an amazing MANAGER dealing with all this, so that at the end I still have some money for myself. Are there any candidates out there?
Interview by Marcel Schlutt