Antwerp = avant-garde, there’s no arguing with that. Thanks to the original Antwerp Six (Walter van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee), Belgium’s most stylish city became renowned at the end of the 1980s for its creative, cutting edge and often deconstructed aesthetic. But it didn’t stop with those first six – such a talent goldmine is the Antwerp Royal Academy of Arts that the original half a dozen were just the start – Raf Simons is also an Antwerp alumni, as is Bernhard Willhelm. Thanks to the ongoing excellence of that venerable institution, design talent from this part of Europe just keeps on coming.
Cedric Jacquemyn AW16 (Image Journal Antonioli)
Continuing the heritage of the original pioneers from the Antwerp Royal Academy of Arts, Cedric Jacquemyn’s designs can be identified by raw edges and a degree of deconstruction. Exaggerated shapes and unconventional silhouettes, alongside a commitment to black, create looks that feel rebellious and subversive. Jacquemyn’s speciality is menswear but many of the looks feel pretty gender fluid. The 2010 graduate opts for slim shapes and stylish tailoring – its meticulous nature is a signature of the label.
Cedric Jacquemyn SS17 (Image 2 Doses a Day)
A designer with quite possibly the best name we have ever come across, Devon Halfnight Leflufy is a Canadian who has also gone through the Antwerp Royal Academy of Arts’ excellence process. His look is much less severe than many others who emerge from Belgian shores, adventurous, creative and texture rich. His work seems to sit half way between a love of classic aesthetic and a hunger for something to boggle the mind – eye opening prints, unexpected details and excessive silhouettes. The dragon motifs from the (mixed gender) SS17 menswear catwalk show (see boots above) really captured our hearts.
Christian Wijnants launched his eponymous label in 2003 following a 2000 graduate collection named by Dries Van Noten as the best of that year. These are designs that look deceptively simple on the rack – add the human body into the mix and they suddenly come alive, revealing subtle twists, from asymmetric hems to gathered pleats, and bringing form to life. Wijnants has won awards for his talent with textiles and the use of traditional crafting techniques, as well as the intricate level of detail that makes the label a firm favourite with simple style devotees.
Wim Bruynooghe’s 2013 graduate collection launched the Royal Academy student into the fashion consciousness with its finely balanced aesthetic that combined the whimsical with the simple. Creative, poetic, but built around a simple selection of jerseys, cottons and wool, Bruynooghe proved to be adept at translating the wild beauty of the Belgian coastline into a range of ageless garments, complete with distinctive accessories. Today, the designer’s aesthetic is a fusion of sporty style and tribute to the great couturiers of the 21st century – elegant, edgy, ready to wear.
Images designer’s own unless otherwise indicated.