Watching the annual fashion show of the Antwerp Fashion Department feels like you’re witnessing fashion itself evolve, step by step, from pure and simple shapes into a distinctly personal expression. Remarkably, this renowned school requires its students from all four years to show their work to a 6.000 strong spectator public brought together over three nights, in a four hour show.
The Royal Academy of Fine Arts is a hothouse for talent, where some of fashion’s most influential designers, stylists and photographers once walked the corridors. Here, many fashion careers started to blossom and legendary friendships were forged. The jury this year was a timely reflection of the Belgians who are currently in top positions in their respective fields of the fashion industry. Raf Simons
- soon take the helm at Dior
, was seated next to academy alumni including photographer and stylist duo Willy Vandeperre and Olivier Rizzo and creative director of Chanel make-up Peter Philips.
Walter Van Beirendonck, Peter Philips, Raf Simons. Photo by Boy Kortekaas
Add to this line-up The Gentlewoman
’s Penny Martin, Vogue Italia’
s Sara Maino and British shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood
, and you have every fashion student’s dream sounding board. On top of this scrutiny, no less than 18 prizes are at stake– two of which are awarded by farfetch.com’s partners. The (Antwerp and Paris boutique) RA
award grants €500 to a remarkable collection. This year, master student Manon Kündig won, also receiving the opportunity to present her collection at the next RA showroom during fashion week in Paris in June with her innovative and colourful menswear collection.
A new boutique to the farfetch family, Coccodrillo, also hands out an award for the most creative shoe, with a prize of €1000 and a display its shop-window. Owners Geert Bruloot and Eddy Michiels elected 2nd year bachelor student Flora Seirl’s creations to bestow this honour upon.
Photos by Quentin De Wispelaere and Boy Kortekaas
The show kicks off with designs of the 1st Bachelor students who’ve worked around the subject of the history of dress, showing their interpretations of historical costumes.
2nd Bachelors take this concept one step further by focusing on a historical figure, as for example Alexis Gautier who based his collection Mythology of the walk
on a 1869 painting by Manet titled Young man in the costume of a Majo
Photo by Quentin De Wispelaere
Third-year students are required to base their collection on a preliminary study of a European or non-European culture, in which they rework a typical garment into an original collection. Of this batch, Mattia Vanseveren stood out with street-wise silhouettes modelled after the Alevtian parka from Alaska.
Photo by Louis-Philippe Breydel
The last leg of the show begins around 11pm with the Master students’ final collections. They have been given complete freedom to create a minimum of 12 silhouettes based on whichever inspiration prompts them. This is a unique opportunity for the students to let their imagination run wild before they’ll have to navigate the restrictions of working for an established label or set up a successful label for themselves. In order to show their own style and truly stand out, it’s not unusual for these emerging designers to present collections that are - although sometimes arguably bordering on the eccentric and unwearable – incredibly imaginative and daring. The general approach is focused on experimenting with techniques, and challenging oneself. In the words of womenswear graduate Eva Dunis 'just making what I want to make, because now is the time when I can still do exactly what I want to do.'
Photo by Quentin De Wispelare
At the end of the show, students, models and teachers all storm the catwalk in an exhilarating outburst of adrenaline and relief, a final celebration of what has been a demanding yet rewarding four years at one of the world’s most respected fashion schools.
Photo by Boy Kortekaas