THIS WAS #SHOW2016
Ahhh, June! The real start of summer, international LGBTQ-pride month and host to International Flip-Flop Day (oh yes, it's a thing, mark your calendars for June 17th). But most importantly for Antwerp city, it means it's time again for the annual graduate show by the Fashion Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Connoisseurs and enthusiasts have waited months for this past Friday and Saturday, the the high mass of Antwerp fashion. Last year you could read all about #SHOW2015 on thisisantwerp.be and this year it won't be any different. Here's the official This Is Antwerp #SHOW2016 recap!
Oh hell no, they didn't!
#SHOW2016 started with me, your writer, feeling personally victimized. As you could read in last year's report, much to my delight, for some delightful yet strange reason I received a first-row seat for #SHOW2015. Feeling like a cross between Vogue's André Leon Talley and Suzy Menkes, I took that seat with pride and felt like my time had finally come. Here I was, a first-row attendee at 20 years old. I shared a row with Walter Van Beirendonck and Dries Van Noten. That might not seem like a big deal to you but my very, very gay fashion heart cried a single tear out of pure happiness. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Yours truly was, prepare yourselves for pure horror, seated on the second row this year. Can you believe it? Me?! I'm obviously a future editor-in-chief of a renowned fashion magazine...
I'm kidding. I'm actually grateful I got to be there again, no matter what row I'm in. Honestly. Unfortunately the people in the third row did not share my gratitude and were not appreciative of me, your dutiful reporter, standing up slightly to get better photographs for you. Luckily, I ignored their comments and snapped away for you anyway. Onto the show...
First + second BA
The Academy show opened with the traditional showcasing of the First Year BA students and their cotton skirts, dresses and a completely experimental garment of choice. Once again the first year was full of exciting new talent that'll undoubtedly thrill us for the years to come.
Second Year BA was, in my humble opinion, exceptional. All students showed an historic costume first and then went on to present a mini-collection. I always have a few instant favorites. Yanis Berrewaerts' G.4.L. collection for instance, went straight to my “one to watch” list. He showed a mix of super-hero mask realness with very strong graphic, almost architectural menswear. Another absolute favorite here was another menswear collection, this time by Quinten Mestdagh, who's Heavy Heat collection could've honestly debuted at any international fashion week instead of an academy show. Absolutely outstanding use of materials, layering, graphic design and accessories. His intricately designed zip-up coat is my favorite item of the entire show by far. It came down the runway and my heart seriously skipped a beat. Maybe even two. My third favorite was Olga Smirnova, who showed the most “now” collection of the evening. Oversized leather jackets, metallic, deconstructed then put back together denim and sunglasses so cool, Rihanna's stylist and 032c's Fashion Director Mel Ottenberg is probably phoning in to pull them as we speak. Very Vetements yet not in a rip-off kinda way. Impressive. Another very cohesive 2nd year collection came from Tine Baekgaard Hansen. Her Urban Trophy collection featured the most eyecatching baby pink fur jacket of life. I also loved the trophy wife reference with the bright yellow cleaning gloves. Fashion + humor, important. I love.
Third year BA
When Third Year BA hits the runway, it's always a little bit of a party. Non-model looking models get to present ethnical costumes, preferably out of unconventional materials and it's always a colorful spectacle. Kudos to the guy who performed a tribal dance down the entire two-path runway. After the costumes, it was time for the individual collections and it's a four-way tie between Petra Dudea, Stefan Kartchev, Shayli Harrison and Ken Thaodee for me. All four of them made me want to storm onto the runway and simply steal all their collections. Petra Dudea's So Fresh Vol. 3 featured tongue-in-cheek references to big brands such as Coca-Cola by bending their logo's. Coca-Cola became “Controversial”, while Fanta got a “Freedom” make-over and Snickers became “Sneaky”. The most street-smart collection of the evening. And to be honest: every single garment simply needs to make it's way into my closet. Now. Along with 2nd year BA Quinten Mestdagh my personal favorite collection of the entire show.
That doesn't mean I didn't love, love, LOVE my other 3rd year BA favorites. Stefan Kartchev for instance presented a collection so abstract it deserves an installation in a museum, pronto. His experimental, futuristic, sci-fi yet slightly sterile silhouettes both excited and scared the bejeezus out of me. He used blurred masks with fading, seemingly moving, digitized faces on them that felt hyper-real. Kartchev is clearly the child of a digitally (over)engaged generation and his collection made the greatest use of “post-internet” inspired fashion I've ever seen. Very, very impressive.
Moving on, if you know me, you know homeboy over here loves him some color. I might be dressed in black 99.9% of the time (hey, it's a forgiving color and my daytime job requires it) but on the inside I feel like I'm always dressed in a colorful 1990's Gianni Versace blouse. So it comes as no surprise two of my other 3rd year BA favorites are also the most colorful ones. Both Shayli Harrison and Ken Thaodee presented happy, fluorescent collections. Thaodee went sporty with his Solar Do-Nothing Women who wore classic cut-off knee-high socks as some sort of leg warmers and neon plastiques that stole the show. I also spotted white trousers, attached to some sort of jockstrap-like garment. Something I've never seen before and therefore it terribly thrilled me. (If you don't know what a jockstrap is, I suggested you call your best gay friend immediately and whatever you do, do NOT, under any circumstance, google it if you're at work.)
Shayli Harrison sent down the absolute most colorful and humorous collection. Explosive neon colors, pastel fur trimming, tartan skirts, futuristic sunglasses, embroided knee-high boots, lace, thongs, extreme wigs, you name it. It was there. Instant add to the want-list. Definitely worth mentioning is Takuya Sasaki, who presented a collection titled Samples and actually lived up to that completely. Last year, Master graduate Victor Gautier had a model carry out an actual staircase for his Stairs collection. This year, Sasaki took it one step further and incorporated actual samples of the clothes on the models in an architectural construction built on top (!) of the models. An amazing piece of conceptual fashion and technical detail. Out of the box, out of everyone's comfort-zone. A total stand-out. We're sure the Academy wouldn't want it any other way.
Check out the video report right here.
Text by Laurent James
Pics by Laurent James & Eva Wind
Video by Laurent James (Music 'Icy Gul' by William "WIIr" Pauwels)