We got a hold of Walter Van Beirendonck right at a monumental time in his life. Fans and fashionistas have bowed down to Walter’s genius, corky and colorful collections for decades. On September 13, 2011 the Antwerp Fashion Museum will be displaying a large retrospect exhibition of Walter’s work from 1980 – 2012 called DREAM THE WORLD AWAKE. The tickets for the retrospective better be honored for a week, because that is how long it will take to honor, respect and swallow the fine details of the clothing and the brilliant visual scrap-book of Walter’s life. Walter confesses that it was emotional while pulling pieces from his archives and seeing his life’s work all in one big space. That must have been massive treasure chest of joy and memories.
Walter, whom I consider friend and ‘bear’ role model played well with all of our questions but stayed a gentlemen when describing what types of kink tickles his fancy. Walter Van Beirendonck is the ultimate Accidental Bear and has a glorious beard and dynamic spirit that deserves its own love song.
by Mike Enders
Q & A with fashion bear Walter Van Beirendonck:
Accidental Bear: How was your summer? With the fashion world aside for a second, where could I find you on a fun day off?
Walter Van Beirendonck? In Antwerp, Belgium. Summer was really busy, working mainly on preparing my retrospective which will open soon, 13th of September, in the fashion museum, MOMU-DREAM THE WORLD AWAKE.
Fun days are days when I can visit other cities, go to the museum and galleries, browse around in bookshops, eat ice-cream with friends!
A B: Sherbet or ice cream?
Walter: ICE-CREAM!!! With strawberries
A B: Your clothing stirs up all sorts of reactions from people, usually joy from the amazing playfulness of colors. How would you react to any negative comments to your design? Have you actually received any negative feedback?
Walter: I do understand that for some people my clothes are to loud, but I don’t work for everybody. I’m happy that I have a bunch of loyal shops, fans and clients, who like and appreciate what I am doing.
A B: I was fortunate to be picked to walk in your San Francisco Wonderfur 2010 Show. Sending Bears down the runway seemed to go over well with media and fans. With more success, have you been able to take more risks?
Walter: I do like to work with a variety of men on the catwalk, and of course I like ‘bears’ a lot. But it does not mean that I want to become a ‘bear-designer.’ I like all types of men, all types of humans and that is reflects our world the best! And of course I will take more risk in the future! Fashion/life is an adventure!
A B: Your clothing is art to me. Have you ever ventured in to other forms of art like painting, knitting or sculpting?
Walter: Thanks! I do like art a lot, and I did several art-projects for galleries and museums, mostly on invitation. They are installations with sculptures and fabrics.
Examples of exhibitions are:
You can discover them on my site (waltervanbeirendonck.com) and see projects.
A B: I read that you never skip a season in your collections, which must be a ton of work. How do unwind? Smoke lots of weed? Lie around and have hunky men feed you grapes and braid your beard?
Walter: I work very hard ,that is right! Don’t use drugs at all, hardly drink (sometimes champagne to celebrate). I would love to lie/play around with hunky men…love cute bears! My work is my passion and my life, that keeps me going and gives me the right energy.
A B: What are you working on right now?
Walter: Finalizing my exposition and book. Then I have to start urgently drawing the new winter-collection LOVE/LUST NEVER SLEEPS.
A B: Describe your love life in 10 words or less.
Walter: Loyal, passionate, caring, sexy, adventurous, FURY, intense and emotional…..
A B: How would you describe yourself today compared to yourself in 1990? Personally and professionally.
Walter: I feel still the same, still the same interests and the same friends. I feel that time is making me more mature and skilled and achieving certain results have become easier with the years.
A B: When I think of you I see flashes of color and light. Is there a dark side to Walter Van Beirendonck? Like do you hate puppies or something like that?
Walter: I love puppies, I adore dogs, I used to have an amazing dog, white bull-terrier called SADO. Of course there is a dark-side, there is always a dark side, even in a fairytale. I love KINKY things, which ones…that’s my secret.
A B: So, are you going to bring the Bears back to the runway again?
Walter: Not in the near future, nothing planned like that, but I work very spontaneous and flexible. It will mostly depend on the themes I’m interested in, I will see.
A B: You coming from another culture than the USA, what comes to your mind when I say “white trash”?
Walter: Of course I know what you mean with it, but me it reminds me of A FETISH FOR BEAUTY fashion show I did in the nineties. Parts were called: ‘Black Beauty, White Trash and Birds of Paradise.’ My ‘White trash’ was all about future-possibilities of plastic surgery.
A B: What are your thoughts about fur used for fashion?
Walter: I don’t think that it is necessary, there are so many possibilities with fake-fur today. I do eat meat, so I don’t think that I should say that rabbits, sheep and cows can’t be used in the fur-industry.
A B: Tell my readers secret.
Walter: I don’t have real secrets I think, can’t find one!
A B: It just came to my attention that in Autumn 2011 the Antwerp Fashion Museum will be displaying a large retrospect exhibition of your work from day one. WOW! I would give my left testicle to be there. How do feel about this amazing honoring of your life’s work thus far?
Walter: Right, DREAM THE WORLD AWAKE. It is an honor and it feels weird, as it brings up so many souvenirs. Opening boxes during the preparation was very emotional. First time of my life, all my archive came together in one BIG space. When I was selecting looks for the exhibition (between 1980 and 2012) it looked like one BIG collection. Reconstructing the looks was amazing, and it made me remember so many things, good and bad.
Also the co-operation with Nick Knight and Simon Foxton is fantastic. Simon selected clothes from my archive, remade his own looks and Nick shot this! It became an amazing picture (and video) full of energy which will be shown in the exhibition.
Besides that there is a U2-room, with the Popmart-clothes and a huge WONDERWALL showing my inspirations and artists I respect. There will also be a book.
A B: I see you living in a fashion world with no limits, not even the sky. Last but not least… Walter, what is your source of inspiration?
Walter: THE WORLD! Everything around me inspires me. I love to discover new things in art exhibitions, read and look into books and search the web.
Come and see the exhibition, it will give everybody the possibility to step into my head!!!!
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