Dirk Bikkembergs

Elizabeth Kutesko

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA028

Dirk Bikkembergs was born in Flavorsheim, Germany in 1962 and studied fashion at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, before serving with the Royal Belgium Army in Germany. From 1982 through 1987, he worked as a freelance designer for several European fashion houses and launched his company, Dirk Bikkembergs-Homme Co., in 1985.

He is associated with a group of designers, which includes Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Van Saene, Marina Yee, and Martin Margiela, who emerged from Belgium in the mid-1980s and were known for their postmodern, “deconstructive” use of materials and avant-garde forms. Although the individual styles and identities of these designers vary widely, as a collective they are comparable to the Japanese designers of the early 1980s, who challenged Western clothing conventions that determined good taste and the “perfect fit,” and gave new definitions to notions of femininity and masculinity.

Bikkembergs initially created a sensation with his revolutionary footwear, which drew on the Flanders tradition and craftsmanship of well-made and hardwearing shoes, restructured to suit modern tastes. This included variations on infantryman, soccer, and biker boots, in which he experimented with removing the eyelets that normally accommodate the high lacing and drilling a hole in the heel of the boot instead, through which the laces were pulled and then secured by wrapping around the boot’s leather upper. This style was copied across the world, from high-end to mass consumer fashions for both men and women, and evolved into the sporty and sexy image that pervaded his menswear.

He created the multipurpose wardrobe, a mix of sensual style and functional clothing designed for intense physical activity, which was suitable, as Luc Derycke explains, “for both frivolous parties and a serious workout, as well as anything in-between.” He favors the layering of heavy-duty, rough materials such as felt, leather, and thick knitwear, which convey masculine ideals of toughness and an ability to withstand extreme circumstances.

His first women’s wear line, Dirk Bikkembergs-Homme Pour La Femme, was presented in Paris in 1993 and continued this fixation with sturdy footwear and accessories to include studded leather trousers, floor-length flared trousers, and sheer halter tops. According to Bikkembergs: “I design collections that give one whole strong look, a vision of life … [for] men and women with items that are nonchalant and easy to mix, give freedom and don’t restrict the wearer.”

Dirk Bikkembergs, Fall/Winter 1995 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Bruloot Geert , and Kaat Debo , eds. 6+ Antwerp Fashion . Ghent, Belgium : Ludion, 2007.

Find in Library Coppens Marguerite , ed. Les Annees 80: L’Essor d’une mode Belge (The 1980s: The Rise of a Belgian Fashion). Brussels, Belgium : Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, 1995.

Find in Library Debo Kaat , ed. The Fashion Museum Backstage . Ghent, Belgium, and Amsterdam : Ludion, 2002.

Find in Library Derycke Luc , and Sandra Van De Veire , eds. Belgian Fashion Design . Ghent, Belgium, and Amsterdam : Ludion, 1999.

Find in Library Mower Sarah. ““Six Romp”.” The Guardian , 12 February 1987 .

Find in Library Tredre Roger. ““From Belgium But Far From Boring”.” The Independent , 2 July 1992 .