Walter Van Beirendonck popped up on a video call to discuss his spring collection wearing a neon yellow sweatshirt, standing up momentarily to show off a smiley-face with a slogan in lieu of a mouth: “I wanna dance again.”
You can understand the yearning, given how the coronavirus pandemic silenced nightclub speakers and stilled mirror balls. But even before that, music-related subcultures seemed to putter out, which both perplexed — and inspired — the designer.
Belgium can claim to be a birthplace of raving, and a strain of electronic dance music that emerged in the 1980s known as New Beat. And now Van Beirendonck is introducing Neon Shadow, a fictional band partial to glow-in-the-dark face tape, zany neon Tyvek club wear, and cartoonish penis prints.
“I thought, ‘Why not create my own subculture?'” the Antwerp-based fashion maverick mused.
Van Beirendonck clearly had a blast making his collection film, akin to a trailer for a documentary about Neon Shadow ahead of its “intergalactic” tour in the year 2057. The Subs, a real Belgian electro band, supplied the soundtrack; suited up in neon tailoring or graffiti-print jumpsuits, and clipped lightning-bolt-shaped pegs to their earlobes and nipples.
Provocative slogans flash across the screen, including, “Resist the blandness of the sleeping masses,” as the three band members ramble down a staircase, emerge from a DeLorean and perform in front a teeming crowd, sweaty hands stretched towards them.
The clothes were inventive and sometimes weird, particularly patchwork neon bomber jackets and shirts with a built-in black shadow attached to the back of the garments. Track jackets and running shorts winked to the glory days of gabber techno; redingotes and blouses to The Incroyables, a fashionable aristocratic subculture in Paris at the tail end of the 1700s.
While raving is a popular inspiration this season, Van Beirendonck’s take is daring, witty and comes from the heart. “I always enjoy going to techno clubs and raves,” he said.