Think of Antwerp’s Royal Academy as the beating heart of Belgian fashion. Not only has the cult establishment turned out some of the most influential designers of the modern age such as Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester and Martin Margiela, but it also continues to nurture and inspire the brightest young talents. Avant-garde visionary (and RAFA alumni) Walter Van Beirendonck, heads up the fashion department and plays a major role in curating the buzzed-about annual graduate show, which allows students from the bachelors and masters courses to exhibit their finest work.
This year, in front of a judging panel that included Susie Lau of Style Bubble, SHOWStudio’s Marie Schuller and Dazed’s own Isabella Burley, the 10-strong 2014 MA class made a powerful impression with their innovative, unique and provocative visions. Make a note of these five standouts…
It’s official: bad girls go to Antwerp. Or, at least, where Korean designer Hyein Seo is concerned they do. “It’s about expressing a twisted beauty, a girl in transition between childhood and maturity in an imperfect world” she says. Cheeky and rebellious, the upshot melds traditional school uniform staples with lo-fi streetwear and attitude-laden slogans. Satin varsity jackets with embroidered skulls, rosette-embellished mini-skirts and elasticated fishnet sleeves are all on the inventory list, as are sheer shirt dresses and slouchy grey suits with ‘school kills’, ‘spoiled’ and ‘fuck the world’ patches. To up the glamour ante, decorative strings of pearls and precious clusters of gemstones are thrown into the mix too. “I imagined that this girl has stolen jewels from her mother’s closet to wear with her uniform,” Seo reveals. Given the A-grade response that her work has received, it should come as no surprise that Bad Gal Ri Ri is already a fan.
‘Holi Blush Bubble Crush’ was the title of Graspointer’s kaleidoscopic graduate collection. While we’re still not entirely sure what this suggests, we can tell you that modern art played heavily on the Austrian-born designer’s mind this season. More specifically, she cites David Hockney’s eclectic use of colour and the iconic modernist structure of the Eames house in LA as key influences. With offbeat colour blocking, clean but curvaceous silhouettes, scallop-hem outwerwear and glitter-printed flower motifs, Graspointner spun a heady mix of hyper femininity and refined, ‘90s athleticism – and it worked. Count the supersized sea-foam green coat, patterned knit jumpers (hand-woven by mum and grandma Graspointner) and vibrant laser-cut leather pants as highlights.
The beauty of Yens Cuyver’s collection is that it could just as easily be worn to a party as it could to the gym, because every piece – be it second-skin bodysuits, silky joggers, tuxedo jackets or mini-mesh bum bags – champions a sporting sensibility. “Even the more traditional formalwear has an athletic manner, it’s a common theme in my work,” he says. “This season I was especially inspired by the cut of wetsuits and gym trousers.” Trippy psychedelic prints and giant spider cobweb motifs were also present, adding a theatrical, more dramatic feel to the line. “It’s eclectic,” he adds. “I always try to find a balance between themes that don’t fit together to create a more interesting clash of styles”. Also of note, the enlarged Harry Hill-style shirt collars (fun) and the androgynous waist-cinching coats in neoprene and plush velvet.
Beautiful but melancholy, Italian-born Virginia Burlina tells a tale of lost love with her evocative, feminine collection. “I looked at the work of Art Brut artist Marguerite Sir, who was left at the alter and consequently spent her life in psychiatric care where she made bridal gowns out of torn bed sheets,” Burlina reveals. Straightjackets informed the silk cut-out dresses and coats that were delicately held together with rows of tiny bow straps; while beaded tears, flowers and droplets of blood adorned girlish pink shorts, slouchy satin sleeves (reminiscent of hospital scrubs) and glossy knee-high boots. Elsewhere, fuzzy fur stoles and draped intarsia dresses offset glittery letter chokers and smudged red lipstick. “It’s all extremely romantic, but it made me think that everyone turns crazy for love at least once in their lives,” she adds.
Young hearts (quite literally) ran free in Eran Shanny’s energetic and emotive menswear collection of layered chiffon heart tops, padded suede sneakers, beaded sweaters and ultra wide ‘Oxford bag’ trousers that allow for exaggerated movements. “I wanted to capture the vitality and urge for life and expression that I see in Punk culture with the childlike joy of naive art,” he explains. Mixing sweet, saccharine pastels with sharper, more urgent tones of red and black only enhanced the vibrancy of the line, as did the Op Art-style animal and teddy-bear murals that danced across boxy sheer tops and silk shorts. A play on traditional gender identity was also apparent throughout. “I like to make clothes challenge and that invite a response,” he says. “I see my men (or women) to be delicate but vigorous at the same time, vibrant and confident, tender and wild.”
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