The director of the fashion school within the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp; a member of the legendary Antwerp Six collective; a visual artist with serious merit; Walter Van Beirendonck is undoubtedly a symbolic embodiment of Antwerp.
Do you have a strong childhood memory that had to do with fashion? I don’ t have that kind of thing, that when I was a kid I was playing with dolls as many current designers did as kids. I remember strongly that I was fascinated by clothes and looks, by David Bowie and Alice Cooper and how they looked. At that time it was difficult to make a choice towards fashion. That was in the beginning of seventies.
You are an internationally acclaimed fashion designer who is currently keen on presenting artworks and present himself also as an artist. Do you consider fashion as a form of contemporary art. There is a clear division between the two. I never thought that my collections as a fashion designers had something to do with art. On the other hand the way they were shown flirted with idea of a performance is clearly a medium of art. I strongly believe that clothes are a consumer’s product.
You are now the head of the fashion department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Antwerp, the same school where you used to be a student a couple of decades ago. Do you see any differences between the two generations? Fashion changed and the world changed. The school is different and the students are different. We were more innocent and naive. To get attention is easier today, then we had to try harder, we knew less. Then it was more spontaneous, now it is more mature and reality linked.
You were part of Antwerp Six. Do you think there is going to be a new edition of this in the near future? I don’t know, it could happen but on the other hand it was just a coincidence, it was not planned. We were good friends at school and like that we stayed for 10 years. We were called the Antwerp Six because no one in London could pronounce our names.
Why is the city of Antwerp so important in producing so much talent in fashion? It is a very good location, close to London and Paris and moreover it is cheap to live here. Cheaper rents. And then it is the school of course. The Royal Academy gives a good education; the teachers work their students. In Saint Martins for example students hardly see their teachers.
What do you believe is the most important moment of your career so far? I always say my last collection. But my career has always been like a roller coaster, with all ups and downs. The good thing is that I always did what I wanted to do and I never sold my soul to anyone or anything. Fashion is going now through an almost scary phase. It is an interesting turning point, everything will soon change. It has almost been the same system and way of making fashion for the last hundred years. The only thing that has really changed is that the main fashion production is done in Asia.
What have you seen lately that has been of an inspiration to you? Ethnic tribal marionettes from Mali. I have a big collection.
That is why you use so many vibrant colors in your collections? I could not live without colors.