Walter Van Beirendonck Retrospective Exhibition at RMIT
Photography: Elisabeth Broekaert
Is fashion killing creativity?: Igne Grognard & Ronald Stoops for Walter Van Beirendonck’s S/S 1999 collection ‘Aesthetic terrorists’:
The name stands out - it screams at you in a way that sounds politically incorrect yet, from this picture found in the promotional material for the collection courtesy of Walter Van Beirendonck, seems so utterly fitting. It was Van Beirendonck’s first collection after having left W< and the birth of his own eponymous brand, now a sixth of the Antwerp 6, and was accompanied by this statement by Van Beirendonck (source):
Aestheticterrorists® [is] a label with a message! Fighting to get attention! Questioning the fact why the fashion world is killing its most valuable treasures: creativity! I believe in it… do you?
The collection itself was incredibly small-scale, and consisted of a line of military-lookalike T-shirts that represented Van Beirendonck’s ‘ironic vision of fashion’. But the collection itself is less important than the universal statement it aims to make. Many have asked me for my opinions on the ‘democratisation of fashion’ following the Business of Fashion article on the many downsides and impracticalities to the present inclusiveness of the once-elite fashion world, and I feel that Van Beirendonck pointed this phenomenon out long before we all joined in analysing it.
I can see the case for democratising fashion in taking the view of fashion having to serve a social contract to us all. We want to put our vote in the exclusive world of fashion and see it count. But by doing so, we ask designers to put us, the customers, the wearers, the utilisers of the clothing as the priority, and we force them to design clothing that is oriented around the market and to use models that are token representations of the biggest economic forces in the world, be it Asia or Europe or Africa, and we forego the dignity of having clothing produced and models chosen for their intrinsic beauty. I apply Kant’s moral reasoning in judging that the democratisation of fashion, however admirable, is a disservice to the fashion world, as Van Beirendonck conveyed in his Aesthetic Terrorism statement.
The fashion world is killing one of it’s most valuable resources, it is killing off creativity, and it is doing this by treating clothing as a means not as an ends. Clothing in this present day is seen only as a vehicle for profit, the success of a collection decided on how much it economically benefits the design house and, by extension, the level of consumer satisfaction derived from the product. However, Kant’s categorical imperative implies that human beings are only ‘human’ by treating people with respect, as an ends within themselves. By the same token, fashion should only be seen to serve its true purpose if the designer creates for the sake of creation. It’s been seen before, with collections that have been deemed unwearable but considered successes, collections that created the postmodernist dialogue on fashion and put fashion on the intellectual map. But increasingly, fewer and fewer designers have sought to break the boundaries and create clothing that their consumers might not wear, with the result of 2013 fashion weeks being an endless parade of designs tweaked in tiny ways on different catwalks that all blend into a homogenous mush of unmemorable clothing.
From this devastating, categorical statement I exempt Hussein Chalayan (whose fall 2013 collection kicked ass), Miuccia Prada and perhaps Phoebe Philo. But consistently we’ve been watching shows and have come off with an underwhelming feeling of ‘That’s it?’ and have been left to scavenge for hints of a designer’s genius (Jil Sander, Dior or Balenciaga Fall 2013 anyone?) as commerciality rules and creativity is forsaken.
written by somethingvain