Belgian photographer Willy Vanderperre is known for his high-profile fashion campaigns and friendships with designers like Raf Simons and stylist Olivier Rizzo. Vanderperre has paved his own path and carved out a unique lane for himself through working with his longtime friends.
This week Vanderperre launches a collaboration with VIER, the Antwerp-based boutique known for its eclectic mix of fashion, streetwear, and sportswear. Its in-house line of graphic tees, scarves, and skateboard decks have led to small collaborations with Umbro and graphics that play on Antwerp’s penchant for minimal fashion as well as the Thrasher magazine logo.
Vanderperre and VIER’s project is called “T-shirts, stickers, pins and more,” and comprises hoodies, tees, towels, pins, badges, socks, stickers, and totes. The color story is directly inspired by the Belgian flag, with items coming in black, yellow, and red, along with white to round out the collection.
The graphics meld images and text pulled from four key visuals important to Vanderperre, each one representing Antwerp in some way. They include Stadspark, Cathedral of Our Lady, the Jan Fabre company, and a still from Naked Heartland, Vanderperre’s debut film.
In addition to VIER, piece will be stocked at Dover Street Market in Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, and London, Slam Jam in Milan; and The Broken Arm in Paris. Each store will have a different iteration of the graphic gear. We got a chance to interview Vandeperre about this project, the importance of the number four, and how he wants to make his work accessible to all.
Can you elaborate on the significance of the number 4 to you?
4: VIER in Dutch can also mean celebration.
4: sounds like FOR: which is giving/sharing.
Graphically, it is also a beautiful number.
The colors are inspired by the Belgian flag, and all of the imagery relates back to Antwerp, what made these particular images stick out to you?
Weirdly enough they have represented my life: The exclusive for Antwerp marks MENEN on the back which is my hometown. One T-shirt shows a still from Naked Heartland which deals with growing up where I am from. The Power of Theatrical Madness by Jan Fabre is a play that as a teen drew me to Antwerp and the book sparkled my interest in photography—later I did a special book on the re-enactment of the play. The cathedral of Antwerp: the icon and the Rubens. Stadspark: where many of my early and later editorials were shot and where I live by now.
As for the colors, it is a combo of all of them that we liked: white/blue/red/black/yellow, it can be all sorts of flags, but yes, there is of course the hint of Belgium, but it can be France too, or the UK, Japan or AC Milan football team, etc you can make a lot of references with the colors. At the end, I guess we just went for colors that we liked.
In a previous interview, VIER co-founder Bob Follens once told me: “With our apparel brand, we want to speak to different subcultures: it can be a graphic t-shirt for a young skater, or something a tourist takes home as a souvenir, but it’s something that people into fashion want to wear—whether it is because of the link to a certain culture or just because of a certain graphic.” To what extent do you think this applies to this project as well?
I like accessibility. I remember growing up pre-internet and before Taschen and others of that kind of publishers came around. Buying a book was something you had to save money for. There was of course a beauty in that, and the object of item became almost even more important. But there was a lack of items that were easily accessible.
That is why when we did the exhibition at New York’s Red Hook Labs and 180, The Strand in London, we also did the collectible items, a limited run of items that are less expensive than say buying a book or a print. They reach a different layer of collecting. They are more instant than owning a print. But they also carry a memory of that time that you bought it. In that sense they are precious too.
I think these items are really important to the people who are interested in your work and they are slightly more addressed to youth and youth culture. Same when we did the fanzines with IDEA publisher, we made sure it was not too expensive, and therefore a collectable for young kids—and adults. So yes, It follows in the line of what Bob told you, It can be for everyone who is interested, that is the goal.
With streetwear and fashion, it isn’t just about putting graphics and text on a garment, but creating a self-contained story that elicits an emotional reaction from certain wearers. What was the mindset you had in approaching this project?
I wanted to be very personal in it’s approach. That is why the images all together tell a story but separate mean a lot to me too.
Now check out Willy Vanderperre’s work for the Raf Simons FW 2018 campaign.