Walter Van Beirendonck waltzes to his own tune. You see it in the way he refuses to tone down his aesthetic or edit his passions to fit more seamlessly into the melee of modern fashion. You also see it in the way he doesn’t give two hoots about making his audience late to their next show, Valentino in this case, by starting 45 minutes late. But Walter’s worth waiting for. You wonder if he ever got tired of fashion, if he'd have an equally successful career designing children's toys. His shapes, colours and graphics are so pleasing. At first glance this was a tribute to the sweet, the cartoon and the playful. Dubbed Electric Eye after David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream, the collection featured suits rendered in children’s fabrics that looked like they could have been purchased at Ikea. Covered in little mushrooms, elephants and monsters they were the picture of innocence. But nothing is ever quite what it seems with Van Beirendonck - he’d twisted this collection, making it a little sick and a little sinister. You saw it in the shoes with black bubbles around the sole as if the wearer had walked in dangerous mud and in suits that became a staring face thanks to cut outs that left the eyes sitting just in front of the wearer’s nipples.
Was this just about childish nightmares or something even more troublesome than that? At points the perversion felt very adult - see those sheer black jackets and nude latex tops. They hark back to Van Beirendonck’s earlier work, but also conjured images of recent Meadham Kirchhoff collections. That reminder, alongside the fact today’s show took place on the stage of the famous Théâtre du Châtelet, audience pit empty, us sat up there with the action, made you think about spectacle and the theatre of fashion. Those who entertain, move and comment like Meadham and Van Beirendonck are a dying breed. Perhaps that explains the sombre undertones, or perhaps they came from something bigger, something outside of fashion. ‘Electric Eye’ sounds both magical and ominous. It conjures Big Brother-esque images of being watched, observed, targeted by some greater force. What an apt notion for today, when our every move is captured on camera, whether for social media or CCTV. That explains the eyes that peered out from garments and off giant hats - they were watching us, just like we were watching them. So this wasn’t all sweetness and light, Van Beirendonck was agitated, concerned and troubled and even his sweet prints and adorable animals couldn’t hide it - ‘freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah!’