In an age where the hyper-accelerated thrust of technology continually reshapes our reality, the latest Walter Van Beirendonck Spring/Summer 2024 collection acts as a provocative fashion semaphore, signaling its creator’s deep-seated concerns about the uncharted frontier of humanity’s relationship with technology. Set against the ominous backdrop of a Brutalist edifice reminiscent of a dungeon, Van Beirendonck’s runway show delivered an intense visual narrative, infusing poignant social commentary into the pulse of high fashion.
Held within the cold concrete confines of a Brutalist structure, this collection conveys a message that echoes chillingly within the belly of the beast of the burgeoning digital age. An age where breakneck innovation sweeps across the world, stirring waves of fascination, yet perhaps not pausing enough to heed the potential consequences lurking beneath the surface.
Taking inspiration from the tragic tale of Dawleetoo, a mythical city lost in the jungles of lore where an 1800s explorer is said to have vanished, Van Beirendonck weaves a fashion tapestry of his envisioned future. A place where humanity and machine coexist, echoing a chilling reminder that “we are being used as crash test dummies”, a phrase plucked from the show notes that reflects the designer’s trepidation about unchecked technological advancement.
Crafted with an uncanny knack for storytelling, the collection features a vibrant lexicon of symbols, inspired by an “alien alphabet print.” Like a futuristic hieroglyphic, each garment from the collection speaks a different dialect of the same language of unease. Yellow and white—colors often associated with danger and safety—dominated the color scheme, cleverly balanced within Van Beirendonck’s whimsical Walter-isms: sunglasses with artificial noses, crocodile-painted shoes showcasing a sharper silhouette, iconic W-caps, and form-fitting tops blazing with vibrant prints.
A vivid thread of activism is woven into the collection’s fabric, with recurring slogans such as “stop terrorizing our world“—a phrase previously employed by Van Beirendonck in his Fall 2015 collection as a response to the terror attacks in Paris. This repetition serves as a chilling reminder that, despite the passage of time, our society is grappling with a cyclic pattern of troubles, now amplified by the advent of new tech and its potential misuse.
Van Beirendonck’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection is a provocative inquiry, an open-ended question posed to our current reality. It is a fashion intervention nudging us towards a much-needed dialogue about our world, brimming with issues from warfare, economic downturns, and an uncertain future blurred by the rapid advent of technology. As Van Beirendonck poignantly stated, “I really wanted to start a conversation about these things.” With this collection, it is safe to say that he has succeeded in opening the gates to that dialogue in a language that is quintessentially his own.
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