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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Bernhard Willhelm

Conceptualism gets a rough ride, and deservedly so, but this show-installation hybrid was a real piece of theater. As people—including Willhelm's former tutor, Walter Van Beirendonck—were seated, no one seemed to know if the show had begun or not. Why? Because the models were being dressed in full view, amid the baroque magnificence of Paris' old Bourse. When the show finally began in earnest it became clear we were looking at a kind of mad artist's studio and the models were his works of art, slowly transforming into something more and more extreme. Some grew a giant Brothers Grimm-like dreadlock, others had lampshades or buckets on their heads, and all were given crazy prints and folksy patterns.

But strip away the heavy, clowny accessorizing and the main pieces were clean and sharp enough to work in the real world. Silhouettes and cuts were slim variations on tracksuits and pajamas. Willhelm is still meditating on ways to bare flesh, with increasing success. He himself looks hot, not silly, in his little shorts.

The show ended as it began, with the impression of chaos. Art and weirdness that resist the authority of menswear, with its rules about luxe and snobbery, are Willhelm's humanistic approach. The free-thinker is back.

—Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Walter Van Beirendonck

Some of Walter's shows have resonated in the fashion industry; others have signaled Walter's changing style. Spring '10 was one of the latter. Day-glo cyberwear was nowhere to be found, though pastel-acid greens and blancmange were still on view. Walter also used plus-sized bear models exclusively. Even if half that bulk was muscle, the show seemed to challenge the fashion media to separate good design from good packaging.

The collection concentrated less on Walter's imagination and more on the sort of clothes he, or the heavyset objects of his lust, might wish to wear. Baggy, loose lines dominated, with galabiya-style shirts and multi-pocketed jumpsuits very much in abundance. A blazer in a blue croc print proved Walter isn't short of ideas.

As if to push home the practical appeal of the collection, Walter modeled the last look himself. Anyone who’s had the misfortune of seeing certain fashion editors squeezing themselves into menswear’s edgier designers will be thankful for Walter's example. All this gave time for half of Walter's bears to gather on a stage previously hidden by a curtain and reemerge in Walter’s new line of underwear—filled out rather splendidly.

—Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Walter Van Beirendonck

By Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

In many ways, Belgian cyber-bear Walter Van Beirendonck is a fashion prophet. His work was initially ignored by the mainstream press, then largely forgotten, but now he's fated as a demigod by anyone with aesthetic aspirations. He's also a teacher, another prophet-like quality. Then there's his bearded daddy look.

The earlier part of Van Beirendonck's fall 09 show, held at Boulevard Voltaire's Cafe Ba-Ta-Clan, consisted of mid-90s, almost Prada-like suits in brown tonics that proved he can cut. Then came metallic floral prints on trousers and extensive use of thick piping to construct hats, plus that graphic penis-equipped torso that's practically Van Beirendonck's logo. Among other retro-futurist moments were mega knitwear that looked crazy academic and a lot of burnt orange.

Most successful were the hybrid moments, like the mohair-y sparkle knits in chloroform green that looked seriously new, along with his trademark knitted hoodies and ponchos, as well as printed tees—all featuring that iconic torso with a penis or blown-up face design. Tracksuit bottoms with radar-like targets emblazoned across the bum made clear that Van Beirendonck retains his mastery of making cheek chic.

Walter Van Beirendonck

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Root Beirendonck

"Explicit" was the title of Walter Van Beirendonck's spring collection, shown at Pitti Uomo in Florence—and indeed it appeared to be inspired by woods, wood nymphs and woodies. As printed on one leotard: Get Natural, Get Naked...

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