“Why is a raven like a writing desk?” read the collectible poster and invitation to Walter Van Beirendonck’s show. Cryptic, to say the least, and it was meant to remain so. As the Belgian designer reminded us backstage, the question was first asked by the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, and would be left unanswered.
A fairy tale with strong philosophical undercurrents, that sums up what the cult of Van Beirendonck stands for in fashion. Indeed, his boyish, pale models with frizzy tufts of hair may have looked innocent in their colorful jackets ventilated with holes, but the usual jumble of textures and patterns was also inspired by a reflection on “the current state of the world” — although the designer still wanted the clothes to be lighthearted.
The collection was dominated by jackets and overalls that were not only pierced, but also decorated with blown-up rosettes trailing ribbons, and the kind of buckles used to clasp handbags. Particularly inventive pieces included trenchcoats-cum-overalls, an iridescent blouson jacket reading “Brutal Beauty,” some with matching harness.
The show’s slow pace allowed the audience to examine the specially commissioned fabrics, including jacquards and a showstopping raffia used for fabulous overalls, as well as breastplates emulating totemic faces, which were actually made of hair clips by a lady in Brussels called Jacqueline.
The parade was more effective at the finale, when the endless procession displayed a wide range of references that although totally random, inexplicably ended up making sense, without exactly explaining why a raven is like a writing desk.