The Secret History of Walter Van Beirendonck's Invitations

'Is Walter an alien? Who killed fashion?' – We take a closer look at the rare printed ephemera from the Belgian designer's archive

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To celebrate the Outsiders issue of Dazed, we invite you into the subversive and hyper-real world of Walter Van Beirendonck. From an exclusive head to head interview with his former intern Craig Green, to never before seen archive images, this is our love letter to the visionary Belgian designer 

A strong graphical output and even stronger subversive statements have been at the core of Walter Van Beirendonck’s world for almost three decades. As we explore rare and never-before-seen printed ephemera from the designer’s archive, Walter looks back on his five boldest designs.

FASHION IS DEAD SS90

Walter Van Beirendonck 'Walter Worldwide News'
Walter Van Beirendonck 'Walter Worldwide News', 'Fashion is Dead!' Newspaper Invitation for Presentation SS90 Collection Photography by Ronald Stoops, taken from 'Belgian Fashion Design', edited by Luc Derycke and Sandra Van De Veire, published by Ludion in 1999

"This is the cover of the newspaper I made as an invitation for the 'Fashion Is Dead Collection' (SS90). It included a series of interviews with my longtime collaborators Inge grognard, Ronald Stoops, Paul Boudens, Anne Kurris, Elza Arras, and also a series of fake stories such as 'Is Walter an Alien?'. I also presented a fake perfume, 'EXCESS = his Master's Choice', which was a bottle (made by Raf Simons – also the mask on the cover is made by him – who was interning at that time in my studio). My dog Sado is on the top of the bottle and on the fake publicity image. The 'Fashion is Dead Collection' was my reaction to the fashion-system. I was very disappointed with the lies and difficulties of working in fashion."

KING KONG KOOKS SS89

Walter Van Beirendonck King Kong Kooks Comic 1989
Walter Van Beirendonck King Kong Kooks Comic 1989 All images courtesy of Walter Van Beirendonck

"This cartoon-album was in fact a comic book I made, and which was presenting the collection in looks and drawings by the famous Belgian artist Jan Bosschaert. I made the stories (it was all about the grey people fighting the colorful people, with the kidnapping of my dog to put pressure on our gang. I created characters as The Warrior (me!), The Rock and The Snake all featured in clothes from the Summer Collection 1989, 'King Kong Kooks'. The story was situated in the city of Antwerp and the Antwerp Six (other five) have a cameo-role in the comic-book."

SEXCLOWN SS08

Walter Van Beirendonck Sexclown invitation SS08
Walter Van Beirendonck Sexclown invitation SS08 All images courtesy of Walter Van Beirendonck

"The 'Sex Clown Collection' is inspired by the sculptures and masks from The Bozo people of Mali in West Africa. They make beautiful and brightly coloured marionettes, sculptures and masks with animal hats which I collect. Also the hats (made by Stephen Jones and on the cover of Dazed) were inspired by this tribe."

HARDBEAT AW98

Walter Van Beirendonck Hardbeat invitation AW89
Walter Van Beirendonck Hardbeat invitation AW89 All images courtesy of Walter Van Beirendonck

“This is a cassette invitation for my 'Hardbeat AW98 Collection'. Real Man was a New Beat group from Belgium and the song “Masters and Slaves” was especially made for this invitation.” 

SUPERNATURAL SS05

Walter Van Beirendonck Supernatural invitation SS05
Walter Van Beirendonck Supernatural invitation SS05 All images courtesy of Walter Van Beirendonck

"This was an invitation for my SS05 show. Another tribe I love a lot are the Hopi tribe from America, they make fantastic 'dolls' (mini-sculptures) representing their gods called Kachinas. This invitation explains how to make a Kachina starting from a cardboard toilet-roll. I also did workshops with children making kachina dolls which was really nice."

Images courtesy of Walter Van Beirendonck's 'Dream the World Awake', published by Lannoo Publishers in 2013

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