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 Mariel Manuel. Photography: Karolina Piech

Antwerp Academy Preview

Dazed speak to the students of Belgium's revered fashion school about what to expect next...

Since Walter Van Beirendonk became the head of the fashion department at the Antwerp Academy, the school has been moving forward more than ever with innovations in visual culture and the use of alternative materials. Focused on experimentation and originality the Academy is a great place to find new designers. A few months away from their June annual show, Dazed talks to some of the students in their final year about their funniest school memories, collections, the Spice Girls and zebra catsuits for dogs.

How old are you and where are you from?
Thorbjorn Uldam: I'm 28, and I am from a small country village in Denmark, though I have been living outside Denmark since I was 20.
Paula Avellaneda: 23, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Pierre-Antoine Vettorello: 25, France
Matthieu Thouvenot: 24, France - From the countryside, a lovely village on a hill.
Mariel Manuel: I'm 22 and half Swiss and half American. But I grew up in Switzerland.

What's the best school memory you have?
Thorbjorn Uldam: It is difficult to think of a specific memory, I think instead there are many smaller parts that constitute together an intensive experience. To move to another country, another culture, meeting many people with different backgrounds under the same creative umbrella, sharing ups and downs and inside outs – it all leaves deep footprints on your personality.
Paula Avellaneda: The fashion show when I was in the first year... we were all super tired and stressed, but surrounded by all these beautiful crazy clothes... Felt like everything is possible.
Pierre-Antoine Vettorello: The first show when I was in the first year at the Academy, everything was so fantastic and it was so hard to tell how the students made it, everything was gorgeous!
Matthieu Thouvenot: Probably the day I've been admitted at the Academy, then began four years of dreams, work, crises and passion.
Mariel Manuel: The very first lessons in the first year, looking at the colour cards and tendence books of older students and having butterflies in my stomach and stars in my eyes!

How you became interested in fashion?
Thorbjorn Uldam: I always had an interest in clothes since I was a little child, however not till I was 20 and became involved in a project of textile investigation for blind time in Barcelona, I started to think about fashion as something I would dedicate my future to. The whole research behind a collection I found very inspiring - the translation of a specific topic into fabrics, shapes and colors around a human body. A friend, Andrea Ayala, a former student of the fashion academy in Antwerp convinced me to go for it.
Paula Avellaneda: I made some zebra print catsuits for my dog when I was five... It all took off from there.
Pierre-Antoine Vettorello: I might have been influenced by my mother during my childhood, we used to shop a lot together, brands, second hands, markets, I don't remember any weeks without the last issue of Elle or Vogue at home; magazines were like an accessible open window for some dreams... Later I did some Art studies and then it became the simplest way to express myself.
Matthieu Thouvenot: It's so difficult to define the reasons for your interests. I believe I didn't choose it, but it was like an obvious intuition. I just followed it.
Mariel Manuel: We made a magazine with my sister and a friend, with black and white pictures I developed myself when I was, like 12... It was called "String", I hung up a white sheet on my closet as a background and we did super confident Spice Girls poses with our leotards and catsuits from dance (and much too much make up).

What´s your collection about?
Thorbjorn Uldam: My collection is about an imaginary place, far away in a cold remote part of a world. Snow storm after snow storm occur, ice dominates nature, and nature dominates the human. Inside a small house in the middle of this white world lives guy with his horse. There is no feeling of anxiety, they are not abandoned, they made a choice. Here, they survive and live with eachother, they need eachother, they love eachother. Their scenario is their daily life so they adjust and live with that is imposed upon them. It is a story of warm and cold, survival and comfort.
Paula Avellaneda: Cupcakes and making out.
Pierre-Antoine Vettorello: My collection is about women who are in flames. I'm translating this dramatic state graphically, with a lot of textures also. I got inspired by some part of my African roots and also by stunt women who are working for the Hollywood movies and are setting themselves on fire.
Matthieu Thouvenot: I was firstly inspired by Baroque and Rococo costume and art, fascinating for their extremely fresh yet theatrical aspect. I chose a very light and bright pastel colour palette this year, reminding the favorite tons of Marie Antoinette's wardrobe. Black is injected through the collection from the hem line to the top. Until it totally invades the silhouettes. As a "Still life" holds life and death within a frame, i'm aiming to create this kind of tension in my work. The cut is inspired by both costume details and traditional Couture constructions. I'm using these references as a base, and build up my designs following a defined atmosphere. This collection is just the pure reflect of my dreams and nightmares.
Mariel Manuel: It's about mermaids, LA beauties, (or maybe I will call them LA bimbos), Venuses coming out of the ocean, in a way, beauty queens who have seen better days.

With whom you would like to collaborate?
Thorbjorn Uldam: I once read an interview with Margiela in which he said “try something new – you might be pleasantly surprised”.
Paula Avellaneda: Musicians! I’ve started making clothes for music performances - it’s been really cool!
Pierre-Antoine Vettorello: Some performers, video artists, movie directors, I think clothes can express so much in a movie. It is something we have lost few decades ago.
Matthieu Thouvenot: I would love to work with performance artists or theater some day, and of course to develop further my collection, with accessories collaborations for instance.
Mariel Manuel: David Lynch.

Which are your plans for the future?
Thorbjorn Uldam: I don’t know. First I will finish my snowstorm and see what awaits ahead, I choose to live in the moment.
Paula Avellaneda: I'm moving to London.
Pierre-Antoine Vettorello: I know for today, and it sounds like I have some work to do.
Matthieu Thouvenot: Future is just more open than ever; it is vertiginous thus exciting...
Mariel Manuel: I would like to travel to Japan and South America, see how things go there, draw and always be busy with interesting projects and collaborate with great artists! Have a nice adventure!