After a year in isolation, that balance between the self and the other could have been completely lost, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that the class of 2021 hadn’t entirely forgotten about the outside world. Yes, as usual, the Antwerp students built fantastical, surrealist, utopian worlds to dress their characters in. They spoke of “vibes and energies”, were inspired by larger-than-life historical figures, and found inspiration in avant-garde and dadaist artists. But they also questioned the position of a creative as a maker, their own role as mothers and family members, and the perception of Black or Arab cultures in Western societies. The fantasy was not navel-gazing.
Perhaps there was space for a different kind of inner-work. As we’ve seen at other graduate shows, students were less confronted with the work of others. Being true to oneself became a necessity. As graduate Huize You said: “I wish everyone, including myself, can meet their own expectations and not the expectations of others.”
One theme functioned as a red thread throughout these diverse collections: contradictions. Read through the descriptions below, and you’ll discover that each student was grappling with appositions. A result of a year of chaos, perhaps?
But again, nothing was left unfinished. The graduate show was replaced by a sharp and crystal clear drone-recorded video. The collections were complete, from exquisitely designed footwear all the way up to a sunglasses collaboration with Komono. A fine combination of experimentation and professionalism. As Maureen De Clercq, one of the tutors at the school, remarked during the EXPO where students presented their work to a live audience: “This is what department stores in London and Paris should look like.” We hope that might actually be the case in a couple of years!