Walter Van Beirendonck Menswear Spring Summer 2014 Paris

Walter van Beirendonck's proclivities towards the bizarre and the theatrical have long been documented. So it felt rather unsettling to be offered an apparently unchallenging view at his spring-summer 2014 show, considering his track record. Last season's introspective mood may have not yet run its full course as the Belgian designer -of the famed Antwerp Six- explored the confines of his own home for this collection, “no more, no less,” he insisted after the show. Even his title of "Home Sweet Home" was less of a riddle than ever before.
He is a fantastic tailor, there are no two ways about it, and in this relatively unadorned collection, this particular skill of his stood out in all its glory. WvB’s house is his muse and to be invited inside the designer’s home, with its hardwood floors echoing those of the Palais Garnier’s Rotonde du Glacier and classic bee wall paper, felt intimate. Rooms were then analyzed, deconstructed right down into an artist’s geometric exercise, delivered through impeccably matched-up blocks of color cut into precisely tailored outfits. Even the most conservative of dressers could not resist WvB’s double breasted jacket, the elegance of his silk trousers or his dinner jacket’s geometric motifs and immaculate bow tie.
Even then, in cozy and familiar settings transcribed in hyper-realistic details right down to the flower pot and Oriental rug, the extraordinary was never far. It started with a belt, diagonally looped around the body. A blink-and-you-miss-it view of a strange creature flashed underneath an unbuttoned jacket, reminiscent of childhood terrors and its imaginary bestiary. Perspective pushed out of the garments, adding a flat panel jutting out of a blazer’s shoulder or becoming three-dimensional flower appliqués. A corner, so many times observed, became an abstraction of patchwork triangles. Mid-show a watch fob on a shirt’s “windowsill” lapels hinted at an unseen White Rabbit, beckoning into the mad, mad world of WvB, just outside that window.
But those who initially worried about an out-of-character collection should not have worried: From the start, all his shoes featured a stylized phallus, as inspired by controversial Italian dandy Gabriele d'Annunzio – a brilliant writer with unpalatable later fascist leanings, hinting once again to an era where the strangest going-ons were happening behind closed doors. Leave it to Walter van Beirendonck to turn the idea of home into a statement of iconoclastic genius.

- Lily Templeton

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