Walter Van Beirendonck

Model wearing red and white mask, red and white top with floral design and white padded pants

The richly coloured creations of Walter Van Beirendonck form a particularly striking segment of the MoMu collection. Over the years, the museum and the designer have regularly worked together. One of the highlights of that collaboration was the 2011 exhibition, Dream the World Awake, which offered an insight into the unique world he inhabits.

Mannequin in mask and long black coat, wearing blue-black top and multicolored leggings
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'W:A.R.' (Walter: About Rights) Autumn-Winter 2020-21
MoMu Collection inv. X1380, Photo: Stany Dederen
Mannequin in red butterfly hat, wearing bright blue dress and hoop skirt
W.&L.T. by Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Welcome Little Stranger' Spring-Summer 1997
MoMu Collection inv. X111, Photo: Stany Dederen
Book Walter Van Beirendonck, with right inscription "kiss me (you fool)"
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Mutilate', 1998
MoMu Collection inv. 41460, Editor: Cornelia Lauf; Publisher: Imschoot, Ghent; Concept: Walter Van Beirendonck; Graphic Design: Paul Boudens
Two mannequins: left wears black suit, with black cap and black shoes; right wears red suit, with skeleton print
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Stop Terrorizing Our World' Autumn-Winter 2006-07
MoMu Collection inv. X217 & X220, Photo: Stany Dederen
Invitation Walter Van Beirendonck with imprint "sex clown" and giraffe
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Sexclown' Spring-Summer 2008 invitation
MoMu Collection
Mannequin in blue layered vest and pantaloons, with feather headdress around head
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Dissections' Autumn-Winter 2000-01
MoMu Collection inv. X1558, Photo: Stany Dederen
Mannequin with grotesque red hat, brown checkered vest and green skirt shaped like an elephant in the front
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Take a W-Ride' Autumn-Winter 2010-11, hat by Stephen Jones
MoMu Collection inv. X227 & T10/26, Photo: Stany Dederen

In 2013, Walter Van Beirendonck was co-curator for the exhibition Happy Birthday Dear Academy, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the fashion department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. He has left an unmistakable impression on this internationally renowned school, as a teacher after 1985 and as head of the department from 2007 to 2022. He himself is a 1980 graduate, and he not long thereafter enjoyed his breakthrough as one of the Antwerp Six. From 1993 through 1999 he designed the W.&L.T. (Wild and Lethal Trash) line for Mustang, the German jeans manufacturers, which was geared towards the rapidly growing youth segment. From 2007 to 2011, Van Beirendonck was creative director for Scapa Sports. He has moreover continued to design in his own name.

LUSTY KNITTING

Mannequin wearing hat, bear-print woollen sweater and kilt
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Bad Baby Boys', Autumn-Winter 1986-87
MoMu Collection inv. X113, Photo: Stany Dederen
  • Detail of wool sweater with bears print
    Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Bad Baby Boys' Autumn-Winter 1986-87
    MoMu Collection inv. X113, Photo Stany Dederen
  • Detail of black boots
    Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Bad Baby Boys' Autumn-Winter 1986-87
    MoMu Collection inv. X113, Photo: Stany Dederen
  • Beige and blue wool sweater
    Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Dare Devil Daddy' Autumn-Winter 1987-88
    MoMu Collection inv. B12/629
  • Model wearing beige and blue wool sweater in antique setup
    Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Dare Devil Daddy' Autumn-Winter 1987-88
    Photo: Karel Fonteyne

Van Beirendonck’s early collections include many knitted fabrics and other elements that would continue to influence his signature, including references to sadomasochism, sexuality, ethnography and cartoons.

THE WILD 1990S

Under the name W.&L.T., Walter Van Beirendonck creates a colourful aesthetic in which he combines his predilection for technology, multimedia and high-tech materials, such as neoprene and reflecting textiles, with high-profile slogans that draw attention to social themes, such as ecology or HIV. His shows are futuristic spectacles or party scenes with quirky casts who flaunt the normative idea of beauty. His models have a variety of body shapes, ranging from muscular bodybuilders and big bears to tender boys, fantasy figures and frail girls.

SUPERNATURAL EXTRATERRESTRIAL

Mannequin with blue alien headpiece, pink top and green pants
W.&L.T. by Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Wonderland' Autumn-Winter 1996-97
MoMu Collection inv. X1552, Photo: Stany Dederen

WONDERLAND COLLECTION, AUTUMN -WINTER 1996-97

Visible through a transparent jacket is a pink T-shirt with black bands bearing the texts, 'Space Bambie', 'Alienate', 'Color', 'Stars', 'W<', 'Kiss the Future' and 'Wild and Lethal Trash'.

W.&L.T. by Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Wonderland' herfst-winter 1996-97
MoMu Collection inv. B12/309
Mannequin with green wig, multicolored top with bird and green floral skirt
W.&L.T. by Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Welcome Little Stranger' Spring-Summer 1997
MoMu Collection inv. B12/314, B12/393, B12/394 & B12/389AB, Photo: Stany Dederen

EXPLICIT COLLECTION SPRING-SUMMER 2009

Grass appears again in the eXplicit collection, now in the form of a beard.

Walter Van Beirendonck, 'eXplicit' Spring-Summer 2009
MoMu Collection inv. X360, Photo: Stany Dederen

Walter Van Beirendonck has a love of science fiction, the supernatural and spirituality. In his collections, he regularly combines aliens and references to E.T., Men in Black and The X-Files, together with ethnic motifs. He invites us to look at the whole universe with new eyes. Through the extraterrestrial, the designer calls our attention to natural phenomena and environmental issues. The alien in Welcome Little Stranger, for Spring-Summer 1997, for example, is wearing a wig made of grass.

SADOMASOCHISM WITH A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY

Multicolored invitation Walter Van Beirendonck with polar bear and print "vote for sado"
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Fist' Spring-Summer 1992 invitation
MoMu Collection
Mannequin with orange bodysuit, metal mask and white jumpsuit
W.&L.T. by Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Paradise Pleasure Productions' Autumn-Winter 1995-96
MoMu Collection inv. X1548, Photo: Stany Dederen
Invitation with image of Walter Van Beirendonck and pit bull dog
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Un Autre Monde' Spring-Summer 1988 invitation
MoMu Collection inv. T18/510
Mannequin in gold crown, black suit and leather knee boots, with bunch of white flowers
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Bad Baby Boys' Autumn-Winter 1986-87
MoMu Collection inv. X108, Photo: Stany Dederen
Mannequin with striking headpiece, pink top, yellow-black pants and platform shoes
W.&L.T. by Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Avatar' Aumtumn-Winter 1997-98
MoMu Collection inv. X1551, Photo: Stany Dederen
Walter Van Beirendonck comic book "King Kong Kooks"
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'King Kong Kooks' comic book, 1989
MoMu Collection, Artwork: Jan Bosschaert; Script: Marc Legendre
Mannequin with metal headpiece, black coat, red checkered pants and platform shoes
W.&L.T. by Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Avatar' Autumn-Winter 1997-98
MoMu Collection inv. X1550, Photo: Stany Dederen

Many of Walter Van Bierendonck’s collections have references to SM and fetishism, with latex masks, bodysuits, lacings, corsets and stiletto heels for men. His first collection, as did his pet bull terrier who was depicted on the clothes and invitations, bore the name Sado. In his Paradise Pleasure Productions collection for Autumn-Winter 1995-96, he called attention to safe sex by wrapping his models entirely in latex.

CONTRARY DRESSMAKING

Mannequin wearing hat, green coat with bear print and colored cycling suit
Walter Van Beirendonck, 'ZWART' Autumn-Winter 2017-18
MoMu Collection inv. X23, Photo: Stany Dederen
  • Detail of embroidery on back of coat
    Walter Van Beirendonck, 'ZWART' Autumn-Winter 2017-18
    MoMu Collection inv. X23, Photo: Stany Dederen
  • Detail of multicolored cycling suit without jacket
    Walter Van Beirendonck, 'ZWART' Autumn-Winter 2017-18
    MoMu Collection inv. X23, Photo: Stany Dederen
  • Multicolored handkerchief with portrait Walter Van Beirendonck
    Walter Van Beirendonck, 'ZWART' herfst-winter 2017-18
    Collectie MoMu inv. B18/29, Foto: Stany Dederen
  • Detail of jumpsuit with leather sleeves and camouflage print
    Walter Van Beirendonck, 'ZWART' Autumn-Winter 2017-18
    MoMu Collection inv. X24, Photo: Stany Dederen

When his collaboration with Mustang ended in 1999, Walter Van Beirendonck needed to work on a smaller scale and focused on experiments in form. The collections he has since presented under his own name reveal his contrarian attitude towards tailoring and dressmaking, as well as exceptional attention to details that evoke rich fantasy worlds. He finds inspiration in nature, in art forms from around the world and in the work of artists Mike Kelly, Paul McCarthy and Erwin Wurm.

Author: Romy Cockx
Photo above: Ronald Stoops

Exhibition opening 'Dream The World Awake', 2011

Exhibition opening 'Dream The World Awake', 2011
Leonardo Van Dijl for MoMu