Antwerp Fashion Departement #SHOW2015 - The Report
On Friday June 12th and Saturday 13th, the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts and its legendary Fashion Department presented its annual show. For the first time in its history, the showcase took place at Park Spoor Noord, the beautiful green site and ultimate Antwerp summer destination. As usual, the show was completely sold-out a few days prior to the event and both local and international fans turned up for Antwerp fashion’s proudest moment. From headhunters and designers to family, friends and fashionista’s everywhere, the show remains the hottest ticket in town, year after year. So you can imagine my excitement when I received a front-row ticket, especially since I’ve been sneaking into the graduating show for the past four years completely ticketless. Shout-out to friends in the academy and a hidden backdoor at the previous venue for that one. Anyway, feeling like a true hardcore attendee I took my seat, together with This Is Antwerp’s Jonas Beldé and Vincent Van Reusel at the Saturday show and let the creativity invade me. I’m breaking down the entire show and its sections, ready to catch-up with or relive #SHOW2015? Here we go!
AN EXPERIMENTAL FIRST YEAR
First up were the always interesting sixty-something first year students, presenting a skirt, a dress and one experimental garment. True stand-out in the first year was Quinten Mestdagh, who’s experimental design caught everyone’s eye. Bright colors, interesting silhouettes and unorthodox shapes everywhere during this part of the show. Loads of new students start in the first year but few finish the complete four years, due to the rigorous training and expected work ethic. Who’ll make it all the way until the end? I’m sure This Is Antwerp will report three years from now.
THE “IS THIS JUST THE SECOND YEAR?”
Moving onto the second year students, who each first presented a historical garment in a group moment and then a solo mini-collection loosely based upon a historical event, period or person. The group presentation had a fun intermezzo when the students came out to quickly transform their creations into another one. When it comes to their own collections, I have a couple of favourites. Afonso Silva's menswear collection for instance was right up my sleeve. A big colourful safari dream and floating pants with a slight nod to Issey Miyake’s pleats. Also impressive were 20 year old Kjell De Meersman with a very cohesive and intriguing menswear collection and Goeun Choi with her “Payback”-collection. One of Goeun’s printed bomber jacks (pictured above) is one of those items I could stare at all day. Other notable mentions for me are Predrag Petrovic, Robbie Van Mierlo, Shayli Harrison and Ken Thaodee, who all presented beautiful work. In conclusion, the level of this year’s second year students was exceptional. In just two short years, their sense of individuality already seems so developed and mature. Impressive.
A VERY WALTER THIRD YEAR
Time for some word travel! The third year each showed an ethnical costume and a collection. Walter Van Beirendonck, the notorious godfather/head of the Fashion Departement and one sixth of the famous Antwerp Six, was all over this section. Not a bad thing if you ask me and only natural, since Walter is the design coordinator for the third year BA. He once said “I’ve stopped worrying about whether my students are going to burst into tears a long time ago. I just give them my honest opinion.” and he done did it again. The third year is the time into the Academy-game where they up the ante. Make or break time, Masters is around the corner. All of that infamous third year pressure was poured into bold collections charged with a powerful message. Swedish Jannike Sommar’s collection “Pink it!” is one of those statement collections with pro-feminist and LGBTQ influences. While I have developed a disliking for the word “statement” when it comes to fashion, her’s was just that and it worked well. Last year, her collection was a Tumblr reblog-fave and I’m sure this year will be no different. Go Jannike! I dig.
And then you just have one of those “I have to buy that right now!” moments that exceeds something being “a favourite”. I had one during Petra Dudea’s menswear collection “Romeo Fantastik”. I haven’t stopped thinking about her hot pink printed blazer with blue sequins and it’s been 36 hours at the time of writing this. Don’t even get me started on the coats. So fluffy, so over the top and the object of my desire. What are you doing to me Mrs. Dudea? Both the blazer (in close-up) and jacket are pictured above. Other very strong third year collections for me were Marta Twarowska and Timo Zündorf. Hope they all get to show a master collection next year! After the third year, it was time for a break.
GOSSIP GIRL, FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE BREAK
The SHOW-break is always the best place to catch up on all of the latest gossip because creative individuals are also the most talkative and let’s face it, shady as hell. Outside of the venue, groups of familiar faces find and greet each other and start the rumour mill. Who’s dating who in and outside of the Academy? (“Basically everyone is just sleeping with everyone.”) Does Walter Van Beirendonck have an Instagram account? Can we tag him? Who’s going to the after party? Is last year straight-to-the-top graduate Yens Cuyvers still at Dior Homme? (Yes!) Is that girl seriously carrying around a real plant as an accessory? Why did the bar run out of white wine already? Topics, topics, topics. Rumour has it several models fractured their ankle’s during the Friday show and had to be replaced. Apparently a couple of people also fainted because of the heat. But hey, it’s Belgium, we’re not used to 30°C and it’s avant-garde fashion darling! Of course someone is going to break an ankle and faint. After a classic fashion dinner, that’d be two Marlboro Lights and a glass of prosecco by default, it was back to the venue for the grand finale.
Somehow the venue filled up even more for the graduating Master Collections. The public, jury and headhunters are ready and names are about to be made. Four years of intense discipline, research, drawings, patterns, sewing machines, long sleepless nights and a funding issue or two is about to come to an end but a new career is luring around the corner. Showtime!
BEINKE + GAUDAEN
Kicking off the Masters was Marie-Sophie Beinke with her menswear collection entitled "Der Klub der Wilden Maler”. Last year Marie-Sophie impressed with a very graphic collection and this year she pushed forward for her final Academy moment. Triangles, sequins, textures, circles, a trenchcoat, color everywhere and a painterly jumpsuit. This collection had it all and proved that menswear can be really exciting. Sofie Gaudaen followed and her collection received instant praise from everyone sitting around me. Perhaps the most wearable out of all the graduating collections but certainly not compromising in it’s creativity. Afterwards Sofie told me that the entire collection was made by hand. The beautiful cut-outs and understated use of color made her “Ainu Stroke" collection an undoubted hit.
SCHAMAUN + VAN CAMPENHOUT
Peter Schamaun’s menswear collection may have been called “A Lecture of an Incompetent" but incompetent he was not. Think classic tailoring, pastels, browns and a preppy touch. All very confused young poet. After Schamaun, Joeri Van Campenhout impressed with his “Fly Fishing” collection. When the opening look is a bright orange suit emblazed with yellow feathers, you know you are in for a treat. All of the glitter, fur and other fluffy materials gave me the idea that Van Campenhout’s credo might be “too much is never enough.” And I’m all here for it. Along with Sofie Gaudaen, my pick for best Master Collection. Werk.
ROSSI + WERNER
Straight to the must-watch list of every sport and streetwear lover in the house was Edoardo Rossi’s “Mint Grin” collection. No mint green was in sight but fishnet tops and layers and layers of fluorescent colours made up for that. Casper Werner’s models came out walking to Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby”, sending the large percentage of gay guys in the audience into immediate ecstasy. Werner’s ”The Girl on a Motorcycle” collection is described as “a woman getting on a motorbike looking for her next sexual prey.” I bet she found him. Noteworthy in this collection were the pants-shoes, because they were just that. Pants AND shoes. Confusingly exciting.
SEVERAC + DE BUCK
Somehow Laure Severac’s “The Dear Elso Letter” collection felt both ethnic and Scandinavian to me. Words of reference on my notepad were cobalt blue, lace headpieces, crochet, wool and is that a nosepiece? I can see Severac bagging a position for a big name in menswear. Onto Marthe De Buck, who had one model struggling in her impossibly high heels. It happens to the best sometimes, just ask Naomi Campbell about her famous heel-gate at a Vivienne Westwood show. The biggest applause followed and De Buck left a mark with her “Lucid Swim” collection. One particular chain mail dress left me very impressed.
GAUTIER + LAUBSCHER
Sometimes, when it comes to your name, you just have to face the writing on the wall. Just ask singer Emeli Sandé, who’s actual name is Adele. While missing an “L” in his last name, Alexis Victor Gautier did leave some audience members wondering if a name change would be appropriate in the future. Or maybe not, I’m sure Jean Paul would love the Google confusion with this talented graduating designer. "Stairs, Zebra, Bees, and Light Purple Jacket" was the title of the collection and boy did Gautier live up to it. A model walked out carrying an actual staircase above his head. Well executed menswear collection. The final graduate this year was Miriam Laubscher and her collection was maybe the most anticipated of the entire night, since one of her looks was used as the promotional image for the show. Laubscher’s did not disappoint and showed beautiful flowy, sheer colorful designs. Like a breeze on an impossibly hot day, her collection was the perfect closer to the entire show.
DO YOUR DANCE
And then a confetti cannon went off and #SHOW2015 came to an end. Without a doubt, the Fashion Departement proved, once again, that Antwerp Fashion stands for endless creativity. I’m sure it’s a given by now, since the Academy is voted as one of the most influential in the world year after year. Whether you’re from London, Paris, New York or Tokyo, it takes you just one Antwerp graduating show to know that, as Kelis would say, the good stuff is right here. Reassured of my belief in local talent, I put my camera away and was off to the CATCLUB after-party. Let’s vogue, motherf*ckers!
Video re-cap of #SHOW2015 by Vincent Van Reusel and Jonas Beldé coming soon.
Text by Laurent James
Pics by Laurent James