Royal Academy Antwerp

Royal Academy Antwerp

Stephan Schneider: stop showing, start selling

Stephan Schneider is not your ordinary ‘Belgian’ designer. As one of the first foreign generations to graduate from the Antwerp Fashion Department in the 90s, the German-born designer is “for sure not Boheme, radical, dark or gothic,” he says as he compares himself with the Antwerp Six, and past graduates from the institution that have established a distinct ‘made in Belgium’ signature. His clothes, in contrast, are very ‘wearable’: something that may be considered very mature or even ‘commercial’ compared to the extravagancy seen at the students’ final year show of the Academy, where he acted as a jury member this year. In a much accelerated industry, Stephan keeps his head cool and doesn’t go through as much change as perhaps other brands would. In fact, the leopard print carpet in his shop is exactly the same as it was when he first opened it 20 years ago. The age doesn’t show in the interior, and neither does it show in Stephan’s energy when he talks about his steady career. “I enjoy this old dusty house,” he says. “I wanted to make fashion that was solid and that I could live from.”

Jan-Jan van Essche: the fashion designer embracing slowness

Talking with Jan-Jan van Essche in a tiny courtyard at the back of his Solar Shop in Antwerp — in which one can buy collected objects of desire as well as his clothing — is like being pushed into a meditative state. On day two of a trip to the Belgian city, I meet the fashion designer who takes a very craft-based and non-seasonal approach to creating garments with soul and longevity, and it takes a mental effort to adapt to his stillness when living and working in a city as fast-paced as London. His long dreadlocks are draped on the table between us, on which a glass of water stands, and a phone. Halfway through the conversation, his friend Charlotte Koopman — a chef who creates food in Het Bos that tastes as soulful as Jan-Jan’s clothes (a testimony: we ate it) — pops in and out of a kitchen at the very back of the shop. The conversation we had on one of the hottest days of the year, while both wearing black, follows below.

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