THE FASHION DEPARTMENT
The Fashion Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts was founded in 1963. In the early years, the academy mainly focused on fine arts but under the guidance of Mary Prijot and Marthe Van Leemput, it quickly grew into a full-fledged fashion education. Two important milestones have changed fashion history forever. First, the rise of the Antwerp Six, all alumni of the Antwerp Fashion Department. The Six — along with Martin Margiela — were a quirky group of designers: they made a name for themselves in the early 1980s with their contrarian views on fashion, averse to what the commercial fashion dictated and limited. Their international success and reputation was the culmination of the vision and the approach of the Fashion Department, which gained international fame and recognition. Second, from 1985, the Fashion Department entered a new era under the leadership of Linda Loppa. She put the emphasis on not only a greater individual expression of the students but also on international orientation, and especially on boundless conceptual creativity. Thanks to her, the conceptual and experimental education was emphasized. Since 2006, and until today, the Fashion Department of Antwerp continues to produce countless of talented conceptual designers under the guidance of Walter Van Beirendonck, one of the members of the Antwerp Six.
THE BODY | Without the body, there is no fashion. Fashion exists because of it. Through drawing, the students are finding a way for the body to relate to the surrounding reality. That is still the foundation of their education. Otherwise, the experimental idea is purely an artistic matter. The result must have a valid function within fashion but not necessarily a product value. This makes the education at the Antwerp Fashion Department different from other fashion schools that adhere to commercial designs. However, reality is always in the back of the education’s mind. The teachers are or were employed in any branch of the fashion industry. They want to share their experiences. Workshops and theme projects help prepare the students to different aspects of the business.
THE EXPERIMENT | Being able to think and work unlimitedly experimentally is the most treasured part of this education. Students get the opportunities to push their creative boundaries. Moreover, through an intensive personal guidance by the team of teachers, they are continuously driven to push their limits. That way they are be able to maximize their abilities, ideas and imaginations. The Antwerp Fashion Department will continue to focus on creativity because wanting and daring to think in an unrestrained manner is the most powerful tool for a world in constant change.
THE PLACE | Due to MoMu Antwerp Fashion Museum‘s current renovations -and highly anticipated 2020 reopening-, which touches the building at Nationalestraat 28 housing the Fashion Department, the department will find a temporary haven inside the historical Antwerp landmark Handelsmuseum at the Coquilhatstraat, as of June 2018. Handelsmuseum formerly lodged the Department of Translators and Interpreters and is noted for its monumental neo-baroque façade. Closely located to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Handelsmuseum is equipped to accommodate the students of the Fashion Department for two academic terms.
THE FREEDOM | The goal is not the extensive study of materials, nor the study of both traditional and innovative techniques. They are merely tools for the students, enabling them to think freely and experiment. Tradition, craftsmanship and innovation are key. Being able to create individually and freely is very important. The program offers the students all possibilities, but imposes nothing. Freedom of choice is the basis of innovative creativity. The evolution towards one’s own signature is based on freedom of choice, but also on content, on craft knowledge, and on the quality of the results. The indi vidual In the four-year program, the evolution of the students is closely followed by the teachers. It is a vertical guidance throughout the years. The development of each individual starts with uncovering their knowledge, their interests and their personality. This basis stimulates their inner environment. The process is incredibly intense, not only for the teachers but also the students, and therefore very productive. It enables students to develop a flexible and positive attitude, and a real passion for their work. The constant reflection on their abilities not only molds them into talented designers, but also develops strong personalities.
THE INDIVIDUAL | In the four-year program, the evolution of the students is closely followed by the teachers. It is a vertical guidance throughout the years. The development of each individual starts with uncovering their knowledge, their interests and their personality. This basis stimulates their inner environment. The process is incredibly intense, not only for the teachers but also the students, and therefore very productive. It enables students to develop a flexible and positive attitude, and a real passion for their work. The constant reflection on their abilities not only molds them into talented designers, but also develops strong personalities.
THE WALTER | Walter Van Beirendonck is the Head of the Fashion Department. He describes himself as a watchdog/protector of the extensive experimental approach. Along with his team of teachers, he remains closely involved with his students. Walter himself is an alumnus of the Fashion Department. He graduated in 1980, became one of the Antwerp Six and came back to teach at the Academy in 1985, alongside Linda Loppa. In 2013, the Fashion Department celebrated its 50th anniversary with a magnificent exhibition, ‘Happy Birthday Dear Academie,’ and a book, ‘Fashion / Antwerp / Academy / 50’. Even as the Head of the Fashion Department, Walter Van Beirendonck remains very active as an internationally known and respected fashion designer.