Using classic tailoring techniques and raw styling, Jurgi Persoons’ narrative collections reflect a powerful vision. He transformed traditional silhouettes into ‘trash couture’ by adding decorative elements as subversive factors. When his label was discontinued in 2003, MoMu acquired a large portion of his archives.
Jurgi Persoons graduated in 1992 from the fashion department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp with a rebellious collection. By way of bondage elements and rusty nails that served as high heels, the designer referred to the aggression inherent in our ideals of beauty. In 1996, following an apprenticeship with Walter Van Beirendonck, Persoons launched his own label. As head of the textiles and fashion department from 2013 through 2019, he left his mark on the Royal Academy of Fine Art in The Hague.
Jurgi Persoons transferred punk into the 1990s through a clash of pencil skirts and stiletto heels with unravelled knitwork and fur, all with a wink of the eye. Smocking, ruffles and deconstructed lace contrast with visible seams and unravelled hems and knitting.
“With your bare feet on the ground, you feel close to the earth: it gives a magical feeling to walk barefoot and experience the posture of high heels at the same time.” Artist Antoine Vandewoude visualized the magic that Persoons thus described with a new installation for the Footprint exhibition. He asked a shoe salesperson to leave a print of her toes and the front of her foot onto an infini made of black clay. Years earlier, Vandewoude had been involved with the production of the actual shoes. He made the wooden heels that Persoons then completed with patent leather.
High heels have always intrigued me. They have a drastic effect on the posture and a fetishist significance. They generate a powerful appearance while at the same time making the body unbalanced and consequently weak.
Jurgi Persoons’ Spring-Summer 1997 collection tells the story of how a young girl transforms classic articles of clothing belonging to her grandmother into a conceptual, fashionable wardrobe. Persoons reconstructed a pair of pumps into stiletto heels in such a way that the naked foot experiences both the earth and the curve of the very high heel. In 2016, these served as the promotional image for the MoMu exhibition, Footprint: The Tracks of Shoes in Fashion.
SUBVERSIVE VISUAL LANGUAGE
A faithful collaboration with makeup artist Inge Grognard, photographer Ronald Stoops and graphic designer Paul Boudens reinforces the fetishist language that characterize Jurgi Persoons’ collections. The avant-garde installations that Persoons already preferred to traditional fashion shows in 1999 reinforced his nonconformist vision, ranging from models in Plexiglas boxes along the Seine River for Autumn-Winter 1999-2000 to a line-up in the famous exposed ventilation pipes of Centre Pompidou for Autumn-Winter 2000-01. In addition to increasing the Belgian designer’s commercial success, it brought him international press attention.
Author: Romy Cockx
Photo above: Ronald Stoops; Make-up: Inge Grognard