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Walter van Beirendonck tells students: ‘Focus on creativity’

The Belgian designer says they shouldn’t worry about learning business skills

In the wake of the BoF Global Fashion School Rankings revealed earlier this week, Belgian designer Walter van Beirendonck has voiced his opinion on fashion education. In an article written for BoF, the designer, who is now head of the fashion department at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, says that fashion schools “should focus on creative teaching” and that “students can learn the business side later.”

“In fashion, creativity is a really important thing that you can learn and improve in school,” he says, using the Royal Academy as an example. “Students’ own identity and signature is the most important thing to us.” He goes on to cite the success of the school’s alumni as proof of this method of teaching.

“I’m sure that in all the fashion houses, most people come from creative schools,” he continues. “That’s where most of our students end up – at the house of Balenciaga, the house of Dior. But they get there mainly because of their creativity; not for their business acumen.”

And it’s true, the Royal Academy does have some successful alumni. Martin Margiela is a former student, along with the Antwerp Six (Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, Marina Yee and van Beirendonck himself), Dior Homme’s creative director Kris van Assche and Raf Simons’ long-time collaborators – photographer Willy Vanderperre and stylist Oliver Rizzo.

Van Beirendonck is clear: what the fashion industry needs is new blood and fresh ideas: “We must do everything we can to prioritise creativity in fashion education,” he concludes. “It is the thing that keeps the industry going.”