Christian Wijnants studied fashion design at the fashion department of the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts. In 2000, his graduation collection won the Dries Van Noten Award for the year 2000. In 2001, he carried off the Grand Prize at the International Festival of Fashion and Photography in Hyères. He presented a collection in Paris for the first time in 2003, and in 2005 he won the Swiss Textiles Award, followed by France’s ANDAM fashion award in 2006. For Christian Wijnants, thread, yarns and fabrics are the point of departure for his collections. He specializes in sophisticated tricot, a passion initially kindled by his mother’s knitting machine. He investigated knitting techniques more deeply during his training at the fashion academy and went on to teach knitting there from 2005 to 2011. Knitting lends itself to experimentation in shape and form, a preoccupation that in 2013 won him the International Woolmark Prize for his Merino Wool capsule collection.
Along with innovative knitwork, Christian Wijnants’ collections include dresses, skirts and jumpsuits in flowing fabrics, with free-hanging or buttoned panels and asymmetrical lines. Persia, the Middle East and African cultures continue to be sources of inspiration, along with the aesthetics of film director Wes Anderson and visual art, for example by Christo and Alice Neel.
COLLAGE OF APPLICATIONS
Wijnants has a predilection for soft materials and traditional dying and knitting techniques, which he brings together with contemporary synthetic fabrics and treatments. Techniques such as applique, patchwork and quilting frequently appear in his collections.
In the context of MoMu’s Unravel: Knitwear in Fashion exhibition in 2011, Wijnants created a dress in which he brought together different techniques he had used in earlier collections. He first machine-knitted a dress with circular shoulders. Then he used a tie-dye technique to dye it, then turned the dress inside-out, showing the reverse sides of the stitches. He subsequently unravelled the dress by hand to the waist and re-knit the yarns with awls, creating an irregular, dégradé motif.
I prefer to experiment with the colour and the form of knitwork. The interaction between the dye and the knitting is an interesting phenomenon, especially when you dye something after it has already been knitted. Because of the structure, the result is always surprising.
STROKES OF PAINT
A PLAY OF LINES
The silhouettes shown from Wijnants’ 2015 Resort and Spring-Summer collections unite horizontal, vertical and diagonal stripes, creating interesting plays of lines.
In the Rik Wouters & The Private Utopia exhibition in 2016, MoMu included a variety of Christian Wijnants silhouettes with hand-painted striped motifs. The selection was an ode to a striped dress in which painter Rik Wouters had depicted his wife, Nel. Thanks to the exhibition, Nel’s dress with red stripes took on a new life. In collaboration with La Maison Victor and Editex, Wijnants created a DIY package that included the original fabric and a pattern, which was sold at MoMu.
Author: Romy Cockx
Photo above: Viviane Sassen