The annual fashion marathon that is the Fashion Department of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Art’s graduate show lines up all four grades, from budding first Bachelors to matured Masters. With a reputation of being an incredibly stimulating and healthily competitive environment, it’s an experience the students eagerly immerse themselves in to push their limits and stand out.
For the Master students presenting their final collections, the presence of an awe-inspiring jury line-up that includes Raf Simons, former pupils Olivier Rizzo, Willy Vanderperre and international influencers Sara Maino, Penny Martin and John Skelton, turns this moment, right before they lose the student tag, into a dramatically poignant one. Out of the 11-strong class of 2012, four graduates caught our eye. Here are snatches from their enthusiastic back-stage elaborations…
Manon Kündig’s colourful final collection drew upon the male bowerbird for inspiration, a bird that collects haphazard natural and synthetic scraps in order to seduce females.
Manon Kündig: It goes against the idea of females looking for strong males in nature, instead the bird’s actions are closer to human behaviour, which is really weird. Yet in my silhouettes I’ve covered the face and hands so you don’t see the human body.
To me, creating a collection is about enjoying the process and learning techniques. For my prints for example I used a technique called marbling, which results in unique patterns for each print, but then I also print digitally on other pieces. I like to combine opposites, like fake fur and real snakeskin.”
At the moment I am part of a collective called LVMM that do happenings. In the future, I’d like to create products or editions of t-shirts for example, rather than seasonal collections.
So Takayama finds beauty in destruction, creating statuesque silhouettes of injured yet strong and elegant women.
So Takayama: The idea is based on the installation ‘Crash’ of the Hungarian artist Hajnal-Németh that I discovered at the Venice Biënnale last year. I then made a connection with David Cronenberg’s film Crash and the car crash in the Audrey Hepburn movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s… The end silhouette is very Sixties, combined with the minimal and structured shapes of Balenciaga, and of course adding in futuristic materials referencing cars.
I’m still searching for my own style. Every collection I make, afterwards I always feel like it looks like someone else made it. It is satisfying in the sense that it’s challenging. I’ve learnt the most from fights with friends and the severe criticisms from our teachers.
Eva Dunis processed surprising prints and symbolism in her collection that explores the parameters of Indian culture by adding in conventional British elements.
Eva Dunis: The tension between two cultures interests me, or rather, how someone can be part of two cultures without necessarily feeling more one or the other, but rather reconcile the two. For me, I’m was raised in a very French way, but I feel really at home in England.
I make what I want to make, and don’t really think who’ll wear it. I think now is exactly the time when I have that luxury of doing just what I want. After graduation it will be much different!
During these years, I’ve learnt to refine my own tastes. Now, I not what I like, what I’m good at and what I’m not so good at.
Though I am quite happy with this final collection, you can never be totally satisfied. I think in a month or two I’ll be able to look back and be more objective.
Jon Sofferud exposes his sensibility with a collection that deconstructs masculinity, resulting in a collection that mixes natural elements and crafts with psychedelic colours and materials.
Jon Sofferud: In Norway, you interact differently with nature. This collection reflects how I feel in the spring. In winter, I can get down – my teachers didn’t know what was the matter with me – but in spring I get inspired by the transition from darkness to light.
Being in Antwerp forced me to push myself, to penetrate this bubble I was in. The academy is so nurturing, and encourages you to stick to your beliefs but then also re-evaluate your aesthetic.
It’s important to see ahead, so I really try to put some wearability into it. Of course you have your showpieces, but the importance of appealing to others is the challenge. Seeing a stylist put your work in another context is a real eye-opener.