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Europeana Fashion Focus: Sweater by Walter Van Beirendonck, 1987

Sweater by Walter Van Beirendonck, A/W 1987-88. Courtesy MoMu - Fashion Museum Antwerp, all rights reserved.

This sweater in knitted wool was designed by Belgian fashion designer Walter Van Beirendonck for his ‘Dare Devil Daddy’ A/W 1987-88 collection. Its trompe l’oeil design reminds of the typical look of the ‘strongest man on earth’ character from twentieth century freak shows.

The sweater is oversized and presents an asymmetric pattern. On the left, a one-strap tank top in black and blue stripes, with a belt and a crocheted white flower appointed on the top, is reproduced. The right side and the sleeves are in pinkish wool, recalling bare arms and a naked chest, showing a nipple crocheted in wool. The right arm is decorated with a ‘knitted’ tattoo.

Walter Van Beirendonck graduated from the Fashion Department of the Royal Arts Academy in Antwerp in 1980, and he has presented his own collections since 1983. He is now the director of the department, leading students of one of the most prestigious institution for fashion-designers-to-be. He is, along with Marina Yee, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten, one of the ‘Antwerp Six’: a group of fashion designers formed in Antwerp who made great sensation in the international fashion scene between the 1980s and 1990s, imposing their innovative views to the system.

Van Beirendonck’s collections, whose names are usually characterized by playful alliterations, such as ‘Dare Devil Daddy’ take their inspiration from art and literature, and point out the designer’s outstanding view on fashion. This collection laughs at the ultimate fitness craze, presenting ‘cuddly’ kind of men wearing comfortable oversized clothes with extra padding. These lovely ‘daddies’, with their sweaters embroidered with words like ‘Hug Me’ or decorated with crocheted flowers, dared to sport pieces inspired by circus and freak shows’ artists and clowns. A second part of the collection, called ‘Rabbit Virility’ instead, seemed to be directed to the ‘Macho-Bunnies’ with rabbit ears and puffy tails.

The object is part of MoMu – Fashion Museum Antwerp Archive. Discover more on the Europeana fashion portal.

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