European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Designers

History of an Inspiration: Tim Van Steenbergen and Cinema

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Retracing the inspiration behind all the material and immaterial features of a fashion collection

Very often cinema provides inspiration for fashion collections. The film ‘Death in Venice’ with its wonderful atmosphere was the great inspiration behind Tim Van Steenbergen spring/summer 2003 collection. The final scene, with the boy standing in the water, and the setting sun reflected in the waves, conjured up all sorts of ideas: the sea, the waves, an atmosphere of nostalgia and romance. Pale shades, gradually darkening to black, material floating on the water. Strange creatures find their way onto the clothes; ropes wind themselves into wonderful shapes. Scenes from the film, with veiled women strolling by the beach, inspired the choice of materials: light, floaty cottons, linens, muslin, voile, silk, used in layers to suggest the movement of the wind. Surprising colour combinations, from ethereal pale pink and colourful stripes down to the darkest and most classic pinstripes refer to the Belle Époque beach life, with its parasols, crisp white underskirts and men in classic suits.

Every silhouette in the collection refers to what would happen if one stood in the sea: coats are cut in such a way that they appear to be moving in the water, skirts seem to float and jackets look as if the wind has pushed up a collar, made one side flap open. The knitwear is like the sea itself: starting with the lightest, most subtle of movements and materials, growing into a fine knitted web, and building up to thick cable, like the crest of a wave. Items of clothing, half sweater, half wrap, are kept in place by found objects: bits of driftwood adorned with seashells. Finally, for the finale, a flock of seagulls on a skirt or giant wreath, in darkest black and flaming red, remind us that the sea is more than just an inspiration: it is an ever-changing miracle and a deeply impressive force of nature.

Tim Van Steenbergen graduated at the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts – fashion department, textile creation and theatre costume. Then he took classes in drapery and couture techniques and worked as assistant to Olivier Theyskens. His first collection was launched in 2001 in Paris. Apart from designing for his own label, the designer also collaborates with cinema, dance and opera.