Over the past two weeks, the limelight at the revered Paris Fashion Week Men’s and Paris Haute Couture Week has been fervently seized by the creative forces hailing from The Netherlands and Belgium. Renowned for their avant-garde aesthetics, meticulous craftsmanship, and a profound understanding of fashion’s ever-evolving narrative, these designers have woven a captivating tale on the international stage. From the crisp lines of menswear to the otherworldly marvels of haute couture, we delve into the AW24 collections of Walter Van Beirendonck, BOTTER and Dries Van Noten, and unravel the haute couture creations of Ronald van der Kemp and Viktor & Rolf.
Walter Van Beirendonck
‘Banana Wink Boom’
Walter Van Beirendonck’s AW24 collection ‘Banana Wink Boom’ seamlessly weaves together elements of his previous works, drawing inspiration from his iconic designs as far back as his W.&.L.T era. From his early breakthroughs in the ’80s with the Antwerp Six to more recent collections that embraced surrealism and vibrant colours, ‘Banana Wink Boom’ served as a culmination of his evolutionary journey as a designer. Within the confines of a cramped apartment where models meandered like amiable zombies, guests were found perched in what could easily be mistaken for a closet. Amidst the intimate chaos, models whispered the words “I come from space” and drew attention to pithy slogans emblazoned on jackets, with messages like “NO WAR”, creating a play of oddities and thought-provoking statements.
Having moved their operations to Antwerp in 2023, Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh dropped the over-exaggerated silhouettes and instead confided to a more sober Belgian way of tailoring. BOTTER’s ‘Dark Waters’ collection focuses on wearability, showcases newer versions of their Energia bo Kéts in collaboration with Reebok, and rides the spontaneous vibe of Caribbean culture, all while maintaining a poetic and expressive design ethos. Perhaps its most talked about design is the reference to Shell. The iconic scalloped logo of the petroleum giant underwent a striking transformation, as if rearranged by the flames of dissent. In a symbolic alteration, the familiar ‘shell’ turned into ‘hell,’ now emblazoned in fiery lettering. This gesture not only served as a poignant commentary on the environmental impact of such conglomerates but also echoed a fervent call for accountability and change.
Dries Van Noten
For his AW24 collection, Dries Van Noten seems to weave another chapter onto the “unfamiliar in the familiar” theme that we’ve become familiar with during his Spring/Summer 2024 womenswear showcase. Describing this collection as “the elegance of the unexpected”, the collection embraces contrast, and plays off two opposing truths simultaneously. Each garment was meticulously designed to embody the beauty found in duality. This was exemplified by dapper coats paired with bulky, knitted scarves, and wide-shouldered blazers complemented by loosely fitting trousers. Traditional shapes were morphed, giving rise to a diverse array of oversized sweaters and chunky arm warmers extending past the elbows. Dries Van Noten effortlessly strikes a balance between class and comfort, showcasing his mastery in this delicate equilibrium.
Ronald van der Kemp
For his Spring/Summer couture 2023 collection, and subsequently the collection representing his 10-year anniversary as a sustainable couture designer, Ronald van der Kemp relied on pure intuition. At the core of ‘Wardrobe 19’, the designer wanted to highlight the art of sustainability, and transformed reproductions of Old Master paintings and deadstock materials into upcycled couture pieces. His most outstanding ensemble, a sparkling golden suite jacket, featured misprinted money from the Dutch National Bank on the pockets, as well as the lapels and cuffs. Showing off multiple upcycling techniques integrated in a mishmash of punk, patchwork and colour-blocking, Ronald van der Kemp appeared eager to unveil the entirety of his creative repertoire, all the while acquainting us with the pinnacle of sustainable couture possibilities.
Viktor & Rolf
‘Viktor & Rolf Scissorhands’
In their Spring/Summer 2024 collection, ‘Viktor & Rolf Scissorhands,’ Viktor & Rolf ventured into the unconventional by literally taking scissors to a series of quintessential all-black couture ensembles. Serving as the foundational blueprints for three successive iterations of the same design, the garments gradually evolved into a state of complete disarray through unpredictable cutting. By presenting the literal process of reconstruction, designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren skilfully alluded to surrealism and illusion once again, showcasing a level of craftsmanship that remains as immaculate as ever.