Like so many modern relationships, the collaboration between the designer Walter Van Beirendonck, one of the famous “Antwerp 6,” and the New York artist Scooter LaForge started on Facebook. Beirendonck began following LaForge’s public profile several years ago, and the rest will sound familiar: “One day, we started to chat,” Beirendonck says. After asking the artist to paint an invitation and poster for an earlier collection, the designer more recently commissioned several paintings from LaForge with imagery relating to “topics I wanted to refer to in the Whambam! collection,” Beirendonck’s spring/summer 2015 line. LaForge’s paintings depicting a shark, birds of paradise, a bloody beach, a machine gun, a warplane and a kitten were then scanned digitally and translated into woven fabrics.
Beirendonck uses the term “dazzle camouflage” to refer to the bright, in-your-face prints in the collection, which mostly consists of men’s wear — “from suits to socks,” he says — though it also includes printed silk dresses for women. Dover Street Market is going all-in, with its shops in London and New York showcasing the collection almost in its entirety along with special installations of LaForge’s artwork. Rei Kawakubo’s Trading Museum in Tokyo will carry some pieces, too, as will all U.S. locations of Opening Ceremony and the dozens of shops across 15 countries that stock Beirendonck’s designs.
The collaboration is hitting stores in the midst of a solo exhibition of LaForge’s work and just days after the artist shared headlines with Beyoncé, who wore to the NBA All-Star Game a hand-painted vintage army trench coat LaForge created for a collection available at Patricia Field. (Not all the headlines were positive: The smiley clown depicted on the coat, a longtime trope for the artist, drew criticism for its resemblance to old racist “blackface” caricatures. After a lot of heat on social media, the controversy died down with assurances from LaForge that the resemblance was inadvertent and all intentions were innocent.) “Now I’m going to be painting trench coats for the next five years, basically,” LaForge says, joking about the wait list for the $320 trench. “But I kind of changed the shape of the smiley face on the front. I don’t want any more drama.”