Why have Belgian creators become favourites of Paris Fashion Week podiums and are as much successful all around the world?
Martin Margiela Spring Summer 1991
Working as a Belgian creator nowadays has impact beyond Flanders and Walllonia regions. It means having discipline, tenacity, modesty, and being avant-garde. Such notoriety has something to do with Belgium’s leading schools of art and design, which are now famous all around the world: Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels in La Cambre, and Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp.
Graduated from La Cambre, Olivier Theyskens is presently Artistic Director of designer house Theory et Léa Peckre, award-winner in 2015 of the First Collections Prize at ANDAM (National Association for the Development of the Fashion Arts). Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp brought to the world legendary « Antwerp Six », Walter Van Birendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee: Martin Margiela got into partnership with these students and presented his own collections to British Designer Show in London in 1986.
Belgium’s leading schools of art and design provide cross-disciplinary courses where fashion is studied in the same way as photography, painting and sculpture. « This shows to what extent it is important for these schools to have an artistic approach rather than a commercial one », as explained by Didier Vervaeren, curator of exhibition « Les Belges, Une histoire de mode inattendue », which just ended at The Centre for Fine Arts in Bruxelles.
A constant dialog between arts and fashion is inherent to Belgian creativity.
Raf Simons, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, have all collaborated with the artistic world, be it for a fashion or a design furniture collection, an Opera House or for remodeling Virgin Mary at Saint Andrews Church in Antwerp.
Haute couture French houses are conscious that Belgian creators are an attractive feature and a token of innovation as well. Dior, for example, has three Belgian Artistic Directors: Raf Simons for Women's fashion, Kris Van Assche for Men's Fashion, and Peter Philips for Make-Up.
Additionally, Belgium offers a new wave of competitive creators who stimulate fashion trends: gathered in communities, they seize the codes of past generations and create new subversive models, going against the glamour current.
Filles à Papa, a duet from Lièges, offers trash pieces with a touch of designer fashion, tinted with kitsch elements or sequins: they already appealed to Beyonce and to most of global It-girls; Studio Krijst gathers designers, photographs, artists and offers luxurious pieces with psychotropic pattern; Honest By chooses absolute transparency through dressing vegan, and organic via skin friendly.
Vêtements is Number 1 label in 2015. Created by 8 disciples of Martin Margiela, Vêtements follows the tracks Margiela developed through recycling; yet, it stands out as the new voice for young generations from Paris to Brooklyn. Their fashion show particularly captivated Paris Fashion Week.
Crédits photo : Ronald Stoops, Gio Staiano, Dazed and Confused, Bruno Pieters