Earlier this fall, Antwerp Fashion Museum (MoMu) celebrated Walter Van Beirendonck‘s formidable career as an experimental fashion designer with the unveiling of Walter Van Beirendonck: Dream the World Awake, a decades-spanning retrospective of his work. Divided into six themes, the exhibition features unique pieces from the designer’s collection, as well as interactive videos and collages. A companion monograph of the same name serves as the ultimate overview of an oeuvre that spotlights Van Beirendonck’s timeless eccentricity. Intricately illustrated, the book includes contributions from such icons as Nick Knight, Juergen Teller, and Willy Vanderperre. We sat down with Van Beirendonck to discuss everything from beauty and Bowie to Madonna and S&M.
BULLETT: When did you first realize you wanted to devote your life to fashion?
WALTER VAN BEIRENDONCK: Seeing David Bowie performing “Ziggy Stardust” had an enormous impact on me. I realized then that clothes could communicate and tell stories. That was also the moment I realized that being a fashion designer could actually be my profession and future.
Do you design for others, or do you design to sustain your own creative hunger?
Both. It is extremely important for me that the collection is wearable and sellable, but it is also really important that I can make creative statements that are really appreciated by my clients.
In Alterations, the fourth section of the Dream the World Awake retrospective, you work with different body shapes to construct a diverse understanding of beauty. What is your definition of beauty?
I like to experiment, change boundaries, and, of course, search for “new” kinds of beauty.
What sparked your fascination with “Rituals,” as explored in the fifth section?
Rituals, in all different fields, are a permanent inspiration for me. I’m fascinated by rituals in life, death, initiation, and dance from ethnic tribes. I love each tribe’s expressions and body decorations, but I’m also fascinated by S&M rituals, which I was introduced to by way of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography.
With the American release of your new book, how do you intend to push the boundaries of fashion stateside?
I hope that journalists, fans, and fashionistas will buy the book, read it, and enjoy my vision and view on fashion… I know that Madonna enjoyed watching the retrospective.
Walter Van Beirendonck: Dream the World Awake runs until February 19, 2012 at Antwerp’s MoMu. The accompanying book can be purchased at: