willy vanderperre discusses his new project ‘t-shirts, stickers, pins and more’
The legendary Belgian photographer salutes his hometown of Antwerp with a new capsule collection.
Willy Vanderperre moved to Antwerp on October 4th, 1989. There he met Olivier Rizzo, Raf Simons and Peter Phillips, and together they recalibrated fashion towards romantic, subcultural youth cultures, and wrote another chapter in the already famed fashion history of this small Belgian city with an outsized reputation in the industry. Willy still lives and works in the city, and is now paying homage to it with a capsule collection titled T-shirts, stickers, pins and more, created in collaboration with Antwerp-based skate store VIER and Dover Street Market.
Featuring stills from Willy’s work and images he’s created around the city, from the Cathedral to the Stadspark. The latter of which is, incidentally, the place where Willy shot his first ever i-D cover for the Raf Simons guest edited issue in 2001. The collection is a beautiful tribute to the work of an incredible photographer and a fascinating city. We caught up with Willy to find out more…
Hey Willy, how are you today?
All good, hope you are too. I’m currently on the train travelling to the UK. I really enjoy a train ride, it gives me time to think.
Are you excited for the launch of this new project today?
Yes. Of course. It is a project that we worked hard on, and to see it released is exciting. We are very thankful and happy that the stores we asked to be part of the project all replied positively. We did some specials. For the opening of DSM LA, for example, we did an exclusive blue T-shirt, among others.
How and why did you start working on this project?
I really like VIER. They have this no-nonsense approach, very straightforward: a good T-shirt, a good sweatshirt and a good hoodie. Their logo is a black rectangle with ANTWERP inside it. That’s it. It took a while for us to find out what we would do together. It could not be design, I am not a designer. It had to be personal, that was key.
What was it like to do and what did you enjoy the most about it?
The search to find out what it was that we would do together was great. I like collaborations. I like to team up with people. It enriches us.
You’ve been doing more projects outside of straight up fashion photography recently -- filmmaking and documentary images and this too, does it come from a different impetus?
To explore and learn is always interesting. The side projects open my mind to other ideas and thoughts. With each new project another one springs to mind, finds it roots. It would be too limiting for me to think that I am only -- and don’t get me wrong, I love being one -- a fashion photographer.
Can you tell us a little bit about the locations and how you’ve selected the visuals and what the personal significance is for each place?
I really wanted to make this personal otherwise there would have been no reason to do this project. It kind of sums up my life. The film still is from the short film I directed that deals with growing up in the region of Belgium where I’m from.
The image from the Power of Theatrical Madness is there, not only because I documented the re-enactment of that play, but also because, when that play premiered in my teenage years, it became the reason why I wanted to go to Antwerp for the first time. (Unfortunately that didn’t get to happen at that time, but its imagery and soundtrack were -- and still are -- really important to me).
The Cathedral is the first thing you do in Antwerp. As I did. Rubens’s paintings and the grandness of the building silences you for a while.
The Stadspark is where I shot my first stories for i-D, the Robbie and Chloe story among others, and is, after moving through various homes in the city, where I live now.
It’s a good time to celebrate Belgium, with the country doing so well in the World Cup this summer -- is that part of it?
That among many reasons. Like everyone, I have a sense of pride about my roots. I really love living in Belgium and Antwerp. It really grounds me. And yeah, we did really well. With VIER’s core being soccer -- there is a hint of soccer in there.
And if you could get one famous Belgian to be ‘the face’ your brand -- who would it be, and why?
Does he or she need to be famous? I will be happy to see anyone -- the famous or the not famous -- wearing one of the pieces!