Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck has walked us to the edge of reality. From here, we can’t discern what does exist from what might just be the result of our playful imagination. To reach this state of intriguing existence and discovery, Van Beirendonck has dug into the exploration of Dawleetoo, the legendary lost city in the Sumatran jungles.
“I love to research. That’s how I always start,” he explained.
Yet this time he relied on artificial intelligence to look at how the lost city might have looked (and might still look like) somewhere, out there. “Researching in the era of accelerating A.I. is trippy in many ways,” he said. This game of recollecting possible scenarios of ancient truth through modern instruments lay the foundations for Van Beirendonck’s latest Spring/Summer 2024 collection “DAWLEETOO” presented during Men’s Paris Fashion Week.
As the models fluctuate on the runway, audience members are invited to reflect on the various layers of reality. What you see on the cover might be only a tiny portion of a bigger scheme. Oversized see-through blazers, vinyl raincoats, and bomber jackets with over-padded shoulders disguise soft garments left underneath. Similarly, Van Beirendonck uses large ruffles and other frisky shapes on his silhouettes to bemuse the viewers as they try to make sense of challenging proportions and a new concept of harmony.
Along with the story of Dawleetoo comes the adventure of British explorer Alfred Isaac Middleton, who disappeared during an expedition to the lost city in the late 1800s. He might have just gotten lost in the jungle, yet recent findings say Middleton mentioned a treasure he had discovered and buried in the wilderness.
Is this the same treasure Van Beirendonck gathered as he designed his latest Menswear collection? Surely what comes through this Spring/Summer 2024 set is the excitement of combining opposite features–volume vs tightness, concealment vs transparency, monochromatism vs motley–through fashion.
The question now seems to be whether Middleton disappeared into the jungle on purpose. Well, we might never find out the answer, but we can certainly understand his enthusiasm and trepidation as we walk toward surrealism in Van Beirendonck’s “DAWLEETOO” universe.