Feb 6th, 2016, 03:52 PM

A Joyful Fury: Walter Van Beirendonck AW16

By Matthew Yarborough
Walter Van Beirendonck AW16. Image credit: Jan Vincent Gonzales.
The Belgian designer takes a political stand for his AW16 collection, entitled WOEST.

Anna Wintour famously remarked, "Fashion reflects the times just as much as a headline in a newspaper does." Walter Van Beirendonck's Autumn/Winter 2016 collection was a prime example of fashion reflecting the times we live in: a tumultuous dichotomy between joy and fury. 

WOEST. The word was displayed boldly in red on the cover of the handout found on each seat upon entering the venue for Van Beirendonck's AW16 showing. Speaking with the designer after the show, I was informed that woest is Flemish for furious.

"I wanted to have a name for the collection that is expressing the feeling I have today. I have a feeling that there is so much going on the world that is not right, and I think a lot of people have that same feeling."

Van Beirendonck's fury was translated beautifully through prismacolored uniforms adorned with cartoon-like machine guns and chainsaws. Many of the pieces were quite militant, evoking a modern day warrior, with primal elements like leopard prints and tribal motifs suggesting they were fighting on behalf of Mother Nature herself. Black silhouettes of armed bunnies and teddy bears decorated several of the models' faces like war paint. 

Walter Van Beirendonck AW16. Image credit: Jan Vincent Gonzales.

Though there was much fury in Van Beirendonck's collection, it was hard to ignore the joy. After all, it's quite hard to be angry in a pair of tinseled culottes. Van Beirendonck acknowledged the seemingly opposing emotions, saying, "In fact I made a very strong contrast between very sweet elements and then also very aggressive elements, because I think that's the world we live in. You're having a great evening and then you step outside and you see homeless [people] in the streets."

In a more directed statement, Van Beirendonck built puppets into many of the garments, alluding to the those who pull the strings behind the scenes, causing many of the problems facing the world today. "I think that people from the government and the leaders of the world should play with [the puppets] in a better way." 

Walter Van Beirendonck AW16. Image credit: Jan Vincent Gonzales.

A member of the legendary Antwerp Six and director of fashion education at the The Royal Academy of Art in Antwerp, Van Beirendonck has built a career on boundary-pushing surrealistic menswear. WOEST was classic Walter Van Beirendonck in the best way possible. Colorful, provocative and inspiring, Van Beirendonck's AW16 collection reminds us of the dualism of contemporary society: joy cannot exist without fury. 

View the full collection here.