"In the backyard of the [Royal Academy of Fine Arts] school was this little building, on the verge of collapsing. You would have to very carefully go over the stairs, because if you took one mis-step, you could literally push your feet through them. It was almost dangerous. So I think that the whole thing melted well together. It was the switch from the 80s to 90s, the reaction on excess with minimalism and deconstruction, the first appearance of grunge. So that feeling of romanticism, together with the history, the building and the run down corridors with the statues, it really did make a big impact on how you formed your visual language. I really think there was something quite dark and magical about it, matching perfectly the zeitgeist of the period."

— Willy Vanderperre
vroomheid:

Lieve Van Gorp autumn—winter 1998—99.
Leather, the material of her first accessories, still features, both in the clothes and in the accessories — bags, wallets, belts, purses, wristbands, ties and other flights of fancy. Predominant colours are pale blue, black and white, as well as a range of greys. 
Lieve Van Gorp’s collections blend icons of Catholicism with rock star cult. This mixture is carefully expressed in the ‘merchandising’, which always accompanies her collections. Posters, pins with skulls, the letter ‘L’, exemplify her universe. True to her statement “In my dreams I’m a rock star, but unfortunatly I can’t sing”, Lieve Van Gorp mentions as sources of inspiration rock ‘n’ roll and country & western music, headstrong women like Madonna, Courtney Love, K.D. Lang, Patsy Cline, Skunk Anansie and Patricia Hearst, and men like Jesus Christ, Che Guevara, Willy De Ville and Elvis Presley. 
Working with diversity within one creation is Lieve Van Gorp’s strength. Emotion and agression, softness and bondage, films versus real life, male and female and everything in-between, conservatism and avant-garde, tradition and innovation, leather, love and trust, Gothic rock and classicism…, all these are parts of the Lieve Van Gorp puzzle.

vroomheid:

Lieve Van Gorp autumn—winter 1998—99.

Leather, the material of her first accessories, still features, both in the clothes and in the accessories — bags, wallets, belts, purses, wristbands, ties and other flights of fancy. Predominant colours are pale blue, black and white, as well as a range of greys. 

Lieve Van Gorp’s collections blend icons of Catholicism with rock star cult. This mixture is carefully expressed in the ‘merchandising’, which always accompanies her collections. Posters, pins with skulls, the letter ‘L’, exemplify her universe. True to her statement “In my dreams I’m a rock star, but unfortunatly I can’t sing”, Lieve Van Gorp mentions as sources of inspiration rock ‘n’ roll and country & western music, headstrong women like Madonna, Courtney Love, K.D. Lang, Patsy Cline, Skunk Anansie and Patricia Hearst, and men like Jesus Christ, Che Guevara, Willy De Ville and Elvis Presley. 

Working with diversity within one creation is Lieve Van Gorp’s strength. Emotion and agression, softness and bondage, films versus real life, male and female and everything in-between, conservatism and avant-garde, tradition and innovation, leather, love and trust, Gothic rock and classicism…, all these are parts of the Lieve Van Gorp puzzle.

Lieve Van Gorp autumn—winter 1998—99.
Leather, the material of her first accessories, still features, both in the clothes and in the accessories — bags, wallets, belts, purses, wristbands, ties and other flights of fancy. Predominant colours are pale blue, black and white, as well as a range of greys. 
Lieve Van Gorp’s collections blend icons of Catholicism with rock star cult. This mixture is carefully expressed in the ‘merchandising’, which always accompanies her collections. Posters, pins with skulls, the letter ‘L’, exemplify her universe. True to her statement “In my dreams I’m a rock star, but unfortunatly I can’t sing”, Lieve Van Gorp mentions as sources of inspiration rock ‘n’ roll and country & western music, headstrong women like Madonna, Courtney Love, K.D. Lang, Patsy Cline, Skunk Anansie and Patricia Hearst, and men like Jesus Christ, Che Guevara, Willy De Ville and Elvis Presley. 
Working with diversity within one creation is Lieve Van Gorp’s strength. Emotion and agression, softness and bondage, films versus real life, male and female and everything in-between, conservatism and avant-garde, tradition and innovation, leather, love and trust, Gothic rock and classicism…, all these are parts of the Lieve Van Gorp puzzle.

Lieve Van Gorp autumn—winter 1998—99.

Leather, the material of her first accessories, still features, both in the clothes and in the accessories — bags, wallets, belts, purses, wristbands, ties and other flights of fancy. Predominant colours are pale blue, black and white, as well as a range of greys. 

Lieve Van Gorp’s collections blend icons of Catholicism with rock star cult. This mixture is carefully expressed in the ‘merchandising’, which always accompanies her collections. Posters, pins with skulls, the letter ‘L’, exemplify her universe. True to her statement “In my dreams I’m a rock star, but unfortunatly I can’t sing”, Lieve Van Gorp mentions as sources of inspiration rock ‘n’ roll and country & western music, headstrong women like Madonna, Courtney Love, K.D. Lang, Patsy Cline, Skunk Anansie and Patricia Hearst, and men like Jesus Christ, Che Guevara, Willy De Ville and Elvis Presley. 

Working with diversity within one creation is Lieve Van Gorp’s strength. Emotion and agression, softness and bondage, films versus real life, male and female and everything in-between, conservatism and avant-garde, tradition and innovation, leather, love and trust, Gothic rock and classicism…, all these are parts of the Lieve Van Gorp puzzle.

Lieve Van Gorp spring—summer 1999.
First feeling for fashion: “3000 catholic kids, wearing the exact same uniform, imagine the horror! Customising those clothes to my own style — rebelling just within the rules — is my first recollection when it comes down to fashion. My shirts and socks (regulation white) just hàd to match and be in some sort of pastel colour like pink or yellow. To the powers-that-be I explained that my mother had ‘accidentically’ washed those whities with some strong other colour… I even attached small objects like a puppet or a colourful ribbon to my school blazer with safety pins to personalise it.” 
Lieve Van Gorp’s first feeling for fashion came while she was in high school. To distinguish herself from the other students, she added personal touches to her school uniform, dashes of colour and small accessories … This turned out to be her first step towards a career in fashion. 

Lieve Van Gorp spring—summer 1999.

First feeling for fashion: “3000 catholic kids, wearing the exact same uniform, imagine the horror! Customising those clothes to my own style — rebelling just within the rules — is my first recollection when it comes down to fashion. My shirts and socks (regulation white) just hàd to match and be in some sort of pastel colour like pink or yellow. To the powers-that-be I explained that my mother had ‘accidentically’ washed those whities with some strong other colour… I even attached small objects like a puppet or a colourful ribbon to my school blazer with safety pins to personalise it.” 

Lieve Van Gorp’s first feeling for fashion came while she was in high school. To distinguish herself from the other students, she added personal touches to her school uniform, dashes of colour and small accessories … This turned out to be her first step towards a career in fashion. 

A ritual

Anthropology teaches us that most rituals satisfy a number of fixed conditions. First, there must be a special relationship with time and space, and with particular objects. Then there are a number of basic rules and one basic, albeit debatable, principle, that rituals must not involve the production of anything of commercial value. So a fertility dance and a headhunters’ ritual in the jundgles of Borneo both satisfy these anthropological criteria. So too does a catwalk show. (Nothing is what it seems.)

Catwalk shows certainly have a special relationship with time. On the one hand they all take place at set times, as prescribed by the notorious calendrier to which all couturiers and créateurs are required to conform. On the other hand, catwalk shows are annually recurring phenomena, in other words cyclical. 

Equally, catwalk shows have a special relationship with space. Space is significant because the shows are ‘laid out’, there is a clear demarcation between what goes on inside and everything that is outside. Further the location chosen by the designer is rarely random, more often a matter of crucial importance. The relationship with objects is abundantly clear. There is a general realisation that a catwalk show is a quasi-fetishistic spectacle. Catwalk shows also satisfy a number of basic rules.

Although such shows have a commercial function, and indeed came into being as a sales technique, as events they produce nothing of commercial value. A rain dance is a ritual that attempts to create the conditions necessary for a good harvest, but does not itself produce the harvest. Further, the present custom of separating actual selling from the catwalk show as such only reinforces its ritual character. 

What kind of ritual is a catwalk show? A rain dance to propitiate the elements so that they will allow a plentiful harvest to be brought in? A spring festival which each year banishes winter so allowing new life to arise from the ashes of the old? A procession that confirms or reconfirms the power and wealth of a particular culture?

In any event there is every indication that each change of season is marked by a change in trend, traditionally inaugurated by the catwalk shows organised in the various capitales de la mode; and beautiful young people, like new apparitions, personify the cyclical rebirth (and so immortality) of our Western culture. 

A shift

What has actually been performed is a semiotic concentration to the sign ‘catwalk show’, an expression that indicates what is in essence a widely known phenomenon, namely that as time passes the complexity of the performance increases.

The ‘Belgians’ have made a significant contribution to this semiotic concentration. Their catwalk shows might well be describes as ‘authored’. It is neither the traditions nor the the unwritten laws of fashion that determine what happens, but the designer himself.

This is why a catwalk show can be organised anywhere, at any time and by any means. 

— Dieter Suls, Belgian Fashion Design

Walter Van Beirendonck spring—summer 1994.
In the early eighties western culture saw its criticism reformulated. The dynamism of the avant-garde, the successive attempts at global solutions, each correcting the last, was watered down into a self-congratulatory bickering amidst the ivory towers. The new agenda was concerned with institutional ‘power-knowledge’, and began a radical questioning of its exclusion mechanisms.
'Many signs of new temperament, as for example Rei Kawakubo's first catwalk show for Comme Les Garçons, indicated that even the institution of fashion could accommodate more than a limited number of dominant lines of beauty and taste. Like many of his generation, Van Beirendonck seems keenly aware of these exclusions. (Anyone who spent part of his youth subject to the 'law and order' of a boarding school would certainly be sufficiently confronted with them, even if only in a rudimentary form.)
Whereas at this juncture Martin Margiela opted for an ‘archaeological’ movement which would once more question and deconstruct the assumptions of fashion analytically, Van Beirendonck sought confrontation. In other words, his criticism was based not on a detailed examination of the question but on a confrontation of the question with a barrage of other, ‘subjugated’ questions. He introduced marginal, ‘rejected’, codes in dress, such as SM attributes or science fiction suits. His next answer was a radical reintroduction of mythology. As a fully-fledged ‘mythographer’, he called up images and stories from our collective memory and then short-circuited them with elements from contemporary techno- and cyberculture. The fact that they all join together seamlessly seems to prove that attitudes to highly contemporary technology, such as the Internet, and to the things that happened in ancient myths are not too far removed from one another. Where once the gods threatened us with a deluge, today we face a hole in the ozone layer.

Walter Van Beirendonck spring—summer 1994.

In the early eighties western culture saw its criticism reformulated. The dynamism of the avant-garde, the successive attempts at global solutions, each correcting the last, was watered down into a self-congratulatory bickering amidst the ivory towers. The new agenda was concerned with institutional ‘power-knowledge’, and began a radical questioning of its exclusion mechanisms.

'Many signs of new temperament, as for example Rei Kawakubo's first catwalk show for Comme Les Garçons, indicated that even the institution of fashion could accommodate more than a limited number of dominant lines of beauty and taste. Like many of his generation, Van Beirendonck seems keenly aware of these exclusions. (Anyone who spent part of his youth subject to the 'law and order' of a boarding school would certainly be sufficiently confronted with them, even if only in a rudimentary form.)

Whereas at this juncture Martin Margiela opted for an ‘archaeological’ movement which would once more question and deconstruct the assumptions of fashion analytically, Van Beirendonck sought confrontation. In other words, his criticism was based not on a detailed examination of the question but on a confrontation of the question with a barrage of other, ‘subjugated’ questions. He introduced marginal, ‘rejected’, codes in dress, such as SM attributes or science fiction suits. His next answer was a radical reintroduction of mythology. As a fully-fledged ‘mythographer’, he called up images and stories from our collective memory and then short-circuited them with elements from contemporary techno- and cyberculture. The fact that they all join together seamlessly seems to prove that attitudes to highly contemporary technology, such as the Internet, and to the things that happened in ancient myths are not too far removed from one another. Where once the gods threatened us with a deluge, today we face a hole in the ozone layer.

Dirk Van Saene autumn—winter 1991—92.

Dirk Van Saene autumn—winter 199192.