Belgian Fashion Gets Mixed Review

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Belgian Fashion Gets Mixed Review

Good design, regardless of its context, should always be inspirational.

Unfortunately, the recent Belgian Lifestyle Gala Night largely missed the boat on several counts. How do you inspire an audience with works from last season?

Under the auspices of the Embassy of Belgium and the Belgian Economic Mission, Belgian and Korean models presented the works of five leading fashion designers Thursday at the Shilla Hotel's Dynasty Hall. The clothes ranged from casual to formal, and accessories included handbags and genuine and costume jewelry. The show, the first of its kind from Belgium, left much to be desired. The production featured a short white runway, two projector screens and minimal lighting. The brief screen introduction to Belgian lifestyle did not provide enough information for an interested audience.

The jewelry was hardly visible from a distance and the screen images came and went too quickly. There were too few garments from each designer to get a sense of their styles, especially since this show was an introduction to their designer labels, and most of the clothes were from the Winter 2000 collections. Haute couture designer Gerald Watelet told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition he brought his winter collection because it was still cold in Korea. Korean fashion journalists, some of whom had already seen last season's shows and were expecting something new, came away disappointed.

There were also some irritating interruptions before each designer's works were shown. This commercial presentation on various aspects of Belgian lifestyle between each showing undermined the central concept of introducing the country's fashion culture.

The 45-minute fashion show began with Olivier Strelli's collection of soft, naturally fitting mohair knitwear. The contrast of material was exciting: warm and cold, wild and matte, jersey against python-print leather.

Jewelry designer Christophe Waterinckx certainly presented something different. His diamond ring "Cliffhanger," in which the diamond balances on the edge of the ring, offers an unexpectedly unbalanced, new style of settings for precious stones. The brilliantly cut diamond is inverted, another example of his creativity. Waterinckx's jewelry won first prize at the Antwerp Jewelry and Diamond Fair in 1996.

Young fashion designer Veronique Baranquinho presented a dazzling collection; refined, elegant and graceful. Her clothing features tantalizing contrasts: pure and poetic, yet harsh and dark. The dresses were cut and draped to dramatic visual effect. Bat-wing sleeves were eye-catching and chic.

The first showing in Korea of Ann Demeulemeester's collection received a warm welcome. Although some of her clothing is available in Seoul fashion stores, fans had looked forward to seeing her works because of her reputation as one of the world-famous Antwerp Six. But again, the clothes were from last season, leaving her audience feeling disappointed. Nevertheless, her designs gave her models the appearance of modern female warriors. Sultry models wore simple black combat boots. Geometry versus fluidity gave a visual impression of wild prehistoric elements mixed with futuristic vision.

Mr. Watelet also presented a luxurious and elegant collection, again from last season. Garments included conservative pantsuits with fox and sable fur collars, bejeweled evening dresses and a sumptuously elegant silk taffeta wedding gown. Dramatic vintage accessories accentuated the classical look. According to Mr. Watelet, the fur was dyed but still retained the natural gradiations of their original colors. His clothes were distinctively haute couture, designed for special occasions. Mr. Watelet was a member of French haute couture society for five years, making clothes for some 5,000 members of Belgian aristocracy and a growing number of artistocrats in Europe. Mr. Watelet told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition that the silk taffeta wedding dress featured at the show cost $12,000 or more with design embellishments. A light blue bolero embroidered with beads, crystals, pearls and sequins cost $10,000. He said he hoped his collection would also work well for the beautifully dressed Korean people he had seen in Korea.

Thank goodness for the hat designer Elvis Pompillo, whose theatrical productions stole the show. Humorous yet seriously fashionable, classical yet trendy, models in coquettish period costumes dazzled the crowd. Frivolous whispers of sweet nothings and exuberant, dramatic styling were breathtaking. Top hats with felt roses and bonnets decorated with feathers and streamers beautifully captured sheer enthusiasm and dynamic young energy. At last, here was some real inspiration. Pompillo showed that genuine creativity and talent are timeless.

by Inae Cho

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