Happy Birthday Dear Academie


The current exhibition at The Fashion Institute in Antwerp is a must for all fashion fans. Hosted by the Royal Academie, to celebrate it’s 50th birthday, the MoMu pays homage to its varied and renowned students- with particular attention to the emergence of experimental rule-breakers ‘The Antwerp Six” (plus number seven member Martin Margiela), with a whole room devoted to rare outfits and images. Interestingly it is Margiela who, after graduating, scored his dream job with Jean Paul Gaulthier, and became a globally recognized name, although all have become successful in their own right.


With such a vast back catalogue of work, the exhibition is divided into sections, encompassing the stairs and corridors; The main floor of the gallery is also divided up into several rooms featuring original designs and informative information from the cream of the school’s fifty-year graduates to provide an in depth and insightful portrait of it’s colourful history.

Beginning its life as a Fashion College in 1963, Antwerp rose to fame with the exceedingly talented group of Fashion Academie friends in the 80s. The infamous ‘Antwerp Six’ headed to London in the height of the New Romantic era, and woo-ed the British fashion press and buyers, resulting in first orders from Barneys in New York, and coverage in the Face and i-D magazines.


They have consequently influenced a whole new generation of designers. Consisting of Dirk Bikkembergs, Ann Deumeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Marina Yee and Dirk van Saene, the classmates play an important role as mentors for current and past students, and Walter Van Beirendonck, one of the most recognizable faces of the group, has helmed the programme since 1985.

Innovative, adventurous collections are the key to the school’s teaching, and you will not find anything ordinary. Taking a step back in time, or referencing the future, all the designers chosen for the show demonstrate a flair for the high fashion phenomenon, and many have gone on to work for international design houses, become stylists or art directors.Idriz_Jossa-Antwerp_1988_89-Fashion_4-2 Actively encouraged to seek inspiration from around the world, Antwerp is a great place to study. Accessible to many other European cities, and with a friendly, laid back feel, it is no wonder it draws applications from all around the world.

Co-inciding with the Fashion College’s fiftieth birthday, is the Royal Academies 350th celebration. With a strong heritage for mentoring some of the most well known names in the art world, choosing from the back catalogue must have meant some very tough decisions for the curators.


The exhibition dedicated to the Academie is also a must see for visitors and tackles questions such as ‘Does art have to be beautiful?’ and ‘Are you born an artist, or can art be learned?’ Housed on the docklands in the modern MAS (Museum aan de Stroom), this impressive glass building takes you on a journey through the most memorable pieces of artwork from the last 350 decades. Juxtaposing veterans like Jacob Jordaens and Vincent Van Gogh with more recent alumni such as Panamarenko, Fred Bervoets ‘Plato’ under one roof in a busy yet strangely calm environment. For me, the star attraction is the impressive “Golden Wall” showcasing the best of 350 years of the Academie; Please note to take some time to appreciate the sheer volume of work displayed!


Both exhibitions are showing until January 2014, and are ideal to visit on a weekend trip.
Renowned as much for it’s art and design as it’s shopping, Antwerp has numerous boutiques to take inspiration from too, and the Fashion in Antwerp shopping app, is a great way to navigate your way around the city; And with a Karl Lagerfeld concept store opening in October, there has been no better time to visit.

Words by Sara Darling