A member of the influential ‘Antwerp Six,’ now head of fashion of their alma mater the Royal Academy Antwerp, designer Walter Van Beirendonck has long been a driving force for change in the fashion industry. He continues to show collections that are graphically strong, conceptually challenging and technically innovative.
As part of the Antwerp Six, Van Beirendonck established the city of Antwerp and its academy as fashion centres in the 1980s. He told Dazed Digital, “The world has changed, fashion has changed and the city has changed. The Academy was totally unknown then, so even when you said, 'I'm studying in Antwerp,' nobody knew about the department. The exposure that the Antwerp Six and Martin Margiela gave to the fashion department attracted a whole new generation of students, who came from all over the world. And I think that the evolution in the city — now you can call it a fashion city — has a lot to do with what happened in the school. It's all connected, to what happened around 1985.”
The designer continued: “It was a very dynamic moment and I think that there was a lot of ambition to really make it. To get out of Antwerp and to get out of Belgium. We went through a very long process, school for four years and then four or five years of making collections in Belgium, so we were preparing ourselves for almost ten years. I think then we had the opportunity to create a very distinctive, recognisable signature. Everybody had the time to evolve in their own personal way.”
Van Beirendonck has nurtured many top talents in today's fashion establishment, including Raf Simons and Kris van Assche. “It's really nice to see because they are very precious to me," he told Dazed Digital. "I started to teach in 1985, so most of the later generations were students of mine. I saw them at school, I trained them and then I saw them starting up careers and doing incredible things. It feels really good that I had the opportunity to stimulate them and let them become individuals.”