walter van beirendonck continues to dream the world awake
For three decades the larger-than-life character has continually shocked, surprised, seduced and left us questioning society. For autumn/winter 14, he made an anti-racism stand whilst for spring/summer 2015 was a statement against today's lack of privacy. His hope and optimism for a better world is infectious. This is no more true than in the pages of Dream The World Awake. Before signing copies of the third and final edition at Dover Street Market London, he talks us through his relationship with art, being difficult to catch and making statements that leave us daydreaming of a better tomorrow.
"The creative minds of the artworld better understood what I was showing in my collections and for the fashion world I was, and probably I still am, an outsider who is difficult to 'catch'."
From the designs themselves to how you show them, your work has always had an intriguing relationship with the art world. How would you say your relationship with the art world has evolved?
My relationship with the art world, started very spontaneously. I've always been interested in art and over the years I've had the opportunity to work with a few artists, I like the synergy when two creative minds come together and I think that it 'gives wings' to both of them. For a long time, there was more respect from the art world than the fashion world. These creative minds better understood what I was telling and showing in my collections and for the fashion world I was, and probably I still am, kind of an outsider, difficult to 'catch'.
Which artists continually inspire you?
My long time favourites are Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley. From the first moment that I was introduced to their work, I was struck by their power, energy and became fascinated by their unconventional subjects and the way they expressing them. I'm always happy to discover new artists and I like the work of Folkert de Jong a lot. Recently I've grown extremely interested and fascinated by outsider art. I love the raw, honest and direct vision of artist like Willem Van Genk and I collect folk art from Hungary, Vankone Dudas Juli is one of my favourites.
As the two world's collide with more regularity, how do art and fashion influence each other today?
What I like in the art world is the freedom of creation, the individual and personal statements from artists and that is for me a motivation to work and think as an 'artist'. But I like the rhythm in fashion and the possibility to reflect on and react to contemporary subjects.
For many, your work elevates the craft. Would you ever describe your work as art?
I'm a storyteller. As a fashion designer, I make collections that should be sold and worn but I am putting collections in a narrative and making statements in a way more related to how artists work. I try to bring together the best of both of these worlds, something which requires a lot of energy and braveness.
"I'm a storyteller. As a fashion-designer, I make collections that should be sold and worn but I am putting collections in a narrative and making statements in a way more related to how artists work."
What do you think each gain from the other?
Freedom to to do what I want. Freedom to express myself the way I want. Freedom as artist/fashion designer.
It's now on its third edition but can you talk us through the initial inspirations for Dream The World Awake?
When I started to work on Dream The World Awake, it was important for me to open up my world with this publication. That's why I was showing in the most honest way possible, my inspiration and sketchbooks. For the exhibition, it was important for the inspiration wall, which contained objects, images and art pieces sat next to my own creations to illustrate my way of working. Ultimately, it welcomed the audience into my head and showed the way I translate inspirations into my own language. Besides that, I was really happy that several contributors were able to write about a specific subject regarding my work. Also, the archive shoot with Nick Knight was the cherry on the cake! The book keeps on selling, even when the exhibition is not there anymore. I'm very happy with this third updated blue version!
How difficult is it to curate and edit? Does it get easier or harder with each edition?
It is always difficult to choose. There are always so many possibilities. Thankfully I have a few nice friends and for this project I worked intensively with Paul Boudens and Dirk Van Saene who can help me to decide.
As it pokes our collective minds to think about the world we live in, how have the questions evolved since the first edition? What concerns you most about today?
I'm really concerned about what is going on in the world today Too many problems, too much aggression, war and racism. I'm also concerned about the bees and nature. That's why I try to use my platform of fashion and collections to make small statements about these subjects with the hope that even my tiny voice could bring some solution.
"When I started to work on Dream The World Awake, it was important for me to open up my world with this publication."
What excites you most today?
I was really happy with the invitation of Dover Street Market to do installations in Tokyo, London and New York with my stop racism message simultaneously at the beginning of every fashion week and in three languages.
Having created and challenged fashion for over three decades, what continues to motivate you to create?
I still enjoy creating! Each season I'm excited to begin and to tell a new story.
What statement would you like to close with today?
That I will tell you in January when I will show you my new collection!
Walter van Bierendonck is signing copies of Dream The World Awake today at DSM
Text Steve Salter
Photography Ronald Stoops