Walter Van Beirendonck is angry and he’s taken to the runway to share his frustrations through his AW2016 collection. His penchant for transmitting messages through garments is seen once again in WOEST, which translates to furious, for those of us who don’t speak Flemish. The designer had previously placed slogans on his collection pleading “Stop Terrorizing our World” after the Charlie Hebdo shooting last year. This season, he follows up that sentiment with a lament on the state of events surrounding terrorism, the environment and immigration which have reached a boiling point these past months, translating it to a loud, technicolor collection that demands to be heard as it is seen.
Like the illustration on his invitations, the collection oscillated between anarchic and tongue-in-cheek, against Beirendonck’s vivid color palette. Eccentric geometric patterns formed a totem pole of dynamic tribal faces, monotone coats and jackets in white, reds, green and mustard were draped with dangling puppets perhaps suggesting how the forces that be control the general populace like marionettes. Cute meets deadly, with black gun-totting bunnies painted onto models’ faces and fuzzy woolen chainsaws make a bold statement on the front of oversized coats. Another juxtaposition seen was in the construction and deconstruction, a challenge incorporating classic tailoring and larger-than-life silhouettes that the designer blends together seamlessly, like in the denim boiler suits decorated with graphic landscapes.
In terms of accessories, model’s walked down the runway with ear plates and polished brass chains made in collaboration with chp…? adorned as headpieces. Leopard prints were spotted on wide-legged trousers or paired with oversized plaid ruffles, bringing a wild element to the rich display of geometrics and textures. The quirky collection was also in honor of David Bowie, as we heard an instrumental version of “Life on Mars” take over the heavy beats nearing the tail-end of the show. We feel the anger, yet there’s also a hopeful and humorous note to the collection that refuses to be ruled by fear. In Beirendonck’s playground, the collision may be violent but it’s ultimately a whimsical collection to reclaim menswear for the self-aware man.