Must-See: MoMu NOW/Nu
Today opens "MoMu NU/Now", the new exhibition by renowned fashion museum MoMu. The Antwerp museum has (so far) collected over 25.000 pieces, 7.000 of which have been added over the last 5 years thanks to their own purchases, donations and loans from fashion houses and collectors world wide. The new exhibition focusses on those new additions and their strong sense of European contemporary fashion with a heavy adoration for Antwerp legend Raf Simons, who is currently the designer of fashion mega house Dior. Yesterday, before anyone else got to see the exhibition, yours truly and my best friend, designer and photographer Timo Sassen took a tour with MoMu curator Karen Van Godtsenhoven, while the last finishing touches to the exhibit were happening.
Instead of dividing the exhibition according to the designer, MoMu chose to work around contemporary themes such as 'Colour Blocking', 'Leather', 'Plastic' and 'Floralia'. The exhibition contains mainly Belgian designers such as Raf Simons, Haider Ackermann, Walter Van Beirendonck, Veronique Branquinho, Christian Wijnants, A.F. Vandevorst and Peter Pilotto but also internationally renowned designers such as Helmut Lang and current head at Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquire. Throughout the exhibition MoMu combined the pieces with photographs from their infamous archive and also asks attention for the preservation of all of those breathtaking pieces they own. Curator Karen told us that certain materials such as plastics and liquids are really hard to maintain. That's why it's so important to keep investing in new technology and innovative ways to guarantee optimal preservation of the archives.
Olivier Theyskens and Raf Simons
The first display of silhouettes is set around 'Gala' evening wear including prêt-a-porter pieces by Olivier Theyskens for Rochas and amazing additions from recent collections by Raf Simons for Dior. The Raf-pieces throughout the exhibition are absolutely gorgeous. You can tell they were selected and handpicked with their (future) historical background in mind. One of the eye-catching pieces is the 'Bar Tailleur' by Raf which heavily references the Dior New Look from 1947 by master Christian Dior himself. My personal favorite is the classic cocktail dress which Raf seemed to have cut in the middle and worn with a simple short underneath. This way, Raf Simons breaks with the conventional idea behind long evening wear.
Ann Demeulemeester and Haider Ackerman
The display around the 'Silver & Gold' theme features pieces by Ann Demeulemeester and Haider Ackerman. Also included are garments by Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto who has a strong connection to Belgian fashion. Made out of cotton and viscose the pieces are living proof of the unconventional and groundbreaking choices of materials in contemporary fashion.
The Rodeo Tailor
Another attention grabbing moment in the exhibition are the silhouettes by designer Nudie Cohn, also known as the Rodeo Tailor. In 2011 MoMu had an exhibit around the designer, because Belgian singer and theme park founder Bobbejaan Schoepen and his wife Josée (who often performed alongside him) donated all of their custom made Nudie Cohn outfits to the museum. Nudie Cohn is mostly known for making the rhinestone outfits for the likes of Bobbejaan and Elvis Presley, which lead to his nickname as the Rhinestone King.
The 'New Dandy' part of MoMu Now features creations by Helmut Lang, Hedi Slimane, Walter Van Beirendonck and Raf Simons. The silhouettes are a beautiful timeline from the somewhat older broad cut in menswear to more androgynous, refined and slimmer silhouettes that Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons forced upon the fashion world since the 2000's began. Stand-out piece here is the suit by Walter Van Beirendonck which shows exquisite craftsmanship and guts. Next to that is the 'Colour Blocking' theme featuring pieces in bold color (of course) and a gorgeous asymmetric dress and pant by Ann Demeulemeester.
As I said before, there is a heavy undertone around Raf Simons, probably because he is the most exciting thing in Belgian fashion right now. His own collections have become cult favorites very quickly and since stepping up as the creative director for the house of Dior, his star has only risen higher. There is an entire section of the exhibition devoted to Raf Simons and his many influences from the art world. Raf started out as an industrial designer so his graphic background is noticeable in most of his work. His collaboration with American artist Sterling Ruby show his strong reliance upon the world of art and graphics. Some of Raf's silhouettes for Jil Sander and from his own line found their way into this display and showcase his amazing eye for detail. A true current Belgian master.
Accesories and bags
Next up were some very cool accessories by Stephen Jones and Ann Demeulemeester. My favorite pieces here were the classic 'Brillant' handbags by Belgian luxury house Delvaux. Designed for the World Expo in Belgium in 1958 but still a much desired item amongst collectors and celebrities everywhere. Another great piece were the shoes with the heel in the shape of a gun titled 'Liquidation Totale'. The shoe is from the hand of young talent Pierre Renaux. He graduated last year from the Antwerp Royal Academy and is a very promising new designer. In fact, I met him this past weekend at a party and he has a very clear sense of direction and the talent to become a leader in his field. It is unusual for the museum to feature items from a graduation collection but Pierre did just that. Bravo!
One of my personal favorites was a beautiful garment from Antwerp designer Christian Wijnants, who won the Woolmark Prize last year. One of the only outfits not behind glass, his wool coat and top out of linen and silk, from his F/W 14-15 collection, grabbed my attention and kept it there for a good 15 minutes. Beautiful! Personal favorite 2 was a Margiela dress with a print of a classic Maison Martin Margiela blazer on it.
Another favorite was the Veronique Branquinho display, where the original patterns from the designers own hand were displayed. True craftsmanship! Most designers give the technical part out of their hands. Not Branquinho. Curator Karen explained they hung the patterns a certain way so that they could not be duplicated by museum goers.
I loved looking at all of these beautiful garments but the most captivating to me were the films by Antwerp local Frederik Heyman and Wout Bosschaert. Together with furniture brand Bulo, the 3 films use 3D scans and take you into the atmosphere of the contemporary greats. Heyman is a new name buzzing on a lot of fashion lips, with breathtaking editorials featuring James Franco and Kirsten Dunst to name a few. To add to that, Heyman also did a campaign for Kenzo. Take a look at the stills and the films in the picture gallery or check the full movie here.
With MoMu Nu/Now the museum and featured designers prove that yet again, decades after The Antwerp Six, Antwerp and Belgium are on the forefront of contemporary and avant-garde fashion. The exhibition is an absolute must if you want to enjoy the best of what fashion had to offer in the past, while giving a strong indication of where it will be going in the future. In case of these Belgian contemporaries, that is nowhere else but forward.
All of this and more now to be seen at MoMu Fashion Now/Nu Opens today, September 25th and closes January 4th. Visit the exhibition and tag your pictures with #MoMuAntwerp #MoMuNow. MoMu Nationalestraat 28, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium. +32 3 470 27 70 momu.be
All photographs by Timothy "Timo" Sassen.
This article is part of the collaboration between Antwerp Trill and This Is Antwerp. Click here to see the blogpost on This Is Antwerp. Special thanks to Timo Sassen, MoMu Antwerp and David Flamee.