Walter Van Beirendonck spring—summer 1994.
In the early eighties western culture saw its criticism reformulated. The dynamism of the avant-garde, the successive attempts at global solutions, each correcting the last, was watered down into a self-congratulatory bickering amidst the ivory towers. The new agenda was concerned with institutional ‘power-knowledge’, and began a radical questioning of its exclusion mechanisms.
'Many signs of new temperament, as for example Rei Kawakubo's first catwalk show for Comme Les Garçons, indicated that even the institution of fashion could accommodate more than a limited number of dominant lines of beauty and taste. Like many of his generation, Van Beirendonck seems keenly aware of these exclusions. (Anyone who spent part of his youth subject to the 'law and order' of a boarding school would certainly be sufficiently confronted with them, even if only in a rudimentary form.)
Whereas at this juncture Martin Margiela opted for an ‘archaeological’ movement which would once more question and deconstruct the assumptions of fashion analytically, Van Beirendonck sought confrontation. In other words, his criticism was based not on a detailed examination of the question but on a confrontation of the question with a barrage of other, ‘subjugated’ questions. He introduced marginal, ‘rejected’, codes in dress, such as SM attributes or science fiction suits. His next answer was a radical reintroduction of mythology. As a fully-fledged ‘mythographer’, he called up images and stories from our collective memory and then short-circuited them with elements from contemporary techno- and cyberculture. The fact that they all join together seamlessly seems to prove that attitudes to highly contemporary technology, such as the Internet, and to the things that happened in ancient myths are not too far removed from one another. Where once the gods threatened us with a deluge, today we face a hole in the ozone layer.