Walter Van Beirendonck has always been fascinated by what goes on behind closed doors. Dark secrets have nourished his muse. Aghast at the modern inclination to let it all hang out, he designed his new collection as an effort to reinstate the primacy of privacy. A noble intention, but it would have been better if he'd selected a protagonist other than the character who—in his top hat, bow tie, white shirt, striped boxers, socks, and garters—looked like the stuffy old hypocrite caught with his pants down in a French farce. There were even body harnesses, because isn't there always at least a little light bondage when private peccadilloes are dragged kicking and screaming into the headlines? (Although Van Beirendonck did seem to be airing his ennui at the predictability of such peccadilloes by co-opting Poly Styrene's battle cry "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!")
The designer said he was focusing on secret societies as the last bastion of privacy, with their ritualistic arcana designed to keep the socially networking hordes at the door. It's a great idea for a dinner party dialogue, but it lost something on its way to the catwalk, perhaps because there was something as formal and old-fashioned about the idea as the styles that Van Beirendonck was proposing. The pulse-racing heat of a convincing conspiracy theory was conspicuously absent, even if the red lightning bolts on black patent shoes were surely a sign of something. Walter mentioned Freemasonry, for instance, but you had to look hard to spot the symbols. (Major kudos for taking the risk, however. Let's get more Masons into menswear.)
His track record for choosing the right collaborators remained unimpeached by Folkert de Jong, who created the hat and collar sculptures. One of them hinted at what happens to reputations when the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are unleashed after secrets are spilled.