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LCFMA22: Brave Hendrik and the fearless footwear you must see

Dirk wearing his wooden footwear creations
  • Written byJ Tilley
  • Published date 09 March 2022
Dirk wearing his wooden footwear creations
'Brave Hendrik' by Dirk Vaessen - MA Fashion Footwear 2022

The #LCFMA22 catwalk, showroom and exhibition, which took place as part of London Fashion Week launched from 17-19 February 2022. The celebration showcased projects of creative excellence and we applaud the passionate dedication of our students who have endeavoured to fashion a better future. As we look back on the incredible work showcased, we caught up with the graduates to find out more about their research, collections and hopes for the future. We spoke with Dirk Vaessen from MA Fashion Footwear, who has taken the internet by storm this Fashion Week with his innovative and fearless approach to footwear design. The designs force the wearer into unnatural positions which questions societies perception of 'normality.'

It’s London Fashion Week and the internet is flooded with catwalk images – your designs have been specifically highlighted and have gone viral. i-D Magazine’s TikTok of your catwalk has received over 20 million views! How does it feel to have your work viewed by so many?

First of all, in the beginning I had no idea what was going on as I did not have a TikTok account myself. A friend sent me a message saying, 'do you have any idea what is going on, on TikTok? Your work is going viral and you already have 5 million views!' It is surreal. In a way, I expected some reaction to it but I never expected it to go out in the world like this. I get messages on my socials from people all over the world. Besides all the positive reactions, there are also negative ones, but I do see this as part of my collection as a whole. My work is about developing your true self regardless of the rules of society and to be very honest, I would not be very happy if there were no negative reactions. It would mean that I am not doing anything new. Besides, I see my work as art and art should evoke emotions, both positive and negative.

Model wearing wooden footwear on catwalk
'Brave Hendrik' by Dirk Vaessen - MA Fashion Footwear 2022 Photography by Roger Dean
Many publications are loving the obscurity of your footwear designs – specifically the way they are worn. However, there is so much more to these designs – can you tell us a bit more in depth about your designs and the story as a whole?

My collection is about searching for your true identity. In the time we live in now, it is easy to be considered weird if you do something that is not seen as 'normal'. Identity is a set of characteristics that is determined by others and the context in which we live this context will also determine whether we are successful and happy. However, this has a downside - it leads to a loss of self-awareness, to disorientation and despair. As a result, humans are more lonely than ever, love is hard to come by and living life to the full has become deeply problematic. This problem will develop further and further in the future and that is why I based my concept on my alter-ego 'Brave Hendrik' who lives in the year 2070.  Brave Hendrik will be a pioneer in the field of posture modification. He started working in this field because people's posture and the way they move tells a lot about their identity. I believe people are first recognised by their posture and way of moving.

I started taking pictures of myself in new poses. Then I started filming myself to capture new ways of moving. In the end, 6 ways of moving were chosen, and I started analysing which joints you use for the posture and in what way. When I had these answers, I had the ingredients to develop the footwear and in the end the garments.

What would you like to say to those who may be questioning the wear-ability of these shoes?

You can walk in the shoes but this collection is not meant to be worn. With this collection, I wanted to tell a story. I wanted to do something alienating to make people think again about certain concepts - but I would not dare to send people out into the streets with my shoes. I hope to exhibit my shoes and videos in museums and galleries in the future.

@i_d A shoe for any occasion! #dirkvaessen #lcf #lfw #footwear #londonfashionweek #fashionforyou #tiktokfashion ♬ original sound - i-D magazine
Aside from the traction and attention, how is does it feel being recognised by the industry?

With my work, I want to tell a story and the industry is currently offering me a platform for this, which I appreciate.

The LCFMA22 showcase was the first of its kind to be on schedule at London Fashion Week. How did you find taking part in the catwalk show and why did you decide to model your own designs?

I was so nervous. Normally, you are already nervous before a show, but when a name like that is attached to it, it gets even worse! In the end, it was a very nice experience. When everything goes onto the catwalk and it goes well, you are very proud of what you managed to achieve throughout the whole MA. You work for one and a half years towards your final collection and then presenting it at London Fashion Week is the icing on the cake. I decided to model one of my looks because the collection is based on my alter ego. Besides, if I dare to send models onto the catwalk with my shoes, I have to walk with them too!

Dirk wearing his wooden footwear creations
'Brave Hendrik' by Dirk Vaessen - MA Fashion Footwear 2022
Let’s talk future plans, can we expect to see any future designs from you during life after graduation? What are your plans?

You will, of course, be hearing more from me. I would like to continue creating new postures and also develop new concepts and videos. In the future, I would like to cooperate with others to take on new projects. I do not only develop shoes but also other things like masks and other accessories.

Last question, where did the name Brave Hendrik come from?

Good question, Brave Hendrik means in Dutch, 'a person who sticks excessively to the rules and who will never be out of line.' However, in English the word 'brave' means courage, heroism, and fearlessness. The combination of these two meanings is what my collection is about. You have to be brave to go outside the lines... (and my name is Hendrik.)

Dirk wearing his wooden footwear creations
'Brave Hendrik' by Dirk Vaessen - MA Fashion Footwear 2022 Photography by Ana Blumenkron