Representing the creative future

Isolation was introspective for Antwerp’s class of 2021

The renowned Belgian school presented fantasy worlds, without losing touch with reality

The Antwerp Fashion Department is not one to do things half-assed. Besides their impressive legacy, the school is known for expecting their students to go as far as they can with their ideas. You want to do illustration? Make 100. You’re interested in knitwear? We better see the wool come out of your ears before you bring up another avenue to explore. The doing (ad infinitum) is always prioritised.

There is a slight risk that comes with this go-getter, craft-focussed attitude: the scales can easily tip from self-discovery to self-involvement. Is there (enough) time to reflect on the industry and the socio-political world around you when you’re shirring 14 hours per day?

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 oppositions. 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!

 

Jasmin Bandomer

“During the lockdown, I was listening a lot to classical music. The isolation from the outside world gave me a strong impulse to create fantastical scenery that goes along with classical music. I wanted to show the dignity of classical music maestros in the 19th century by taking their most significant looks into the collection, but also mix it with something contradictory to their style, which is more unconventional in terms of shapes, and in vivid colors. The male maestro’s high neck collar, neck scarfs, check-patterned suit, and the shapes of the big round chest and belly were taken into the collection in order to show the beauty of their classical and dignified looks. My research extended to womenswear of the time, which were women’s suit dresses that were made by tailors and not by dressmakers and pleats that gather. The typical hairdo of the time was translated into minimal and graphic hats. To add some fantastical and surrealistic vibe to the collection, I took medieval Christian paintings which I saw in the Gemaeldemuseum in Berlin as a reference for shape and color.”

Jasmin Bandomer's collection

Ingmar Patton Plusczyk

“The story was initially inspired by the wealthy and extravagant Marchesa Louisa Casati. Her way of life came to a drastic halt forcing her to escape from Italy to London, where people would notice her scrambling through trash, trying to find items to decorate herself with. I was inspired by the idea that the need for self-expression comes from the inside and has little to do with accumulated wealth. That is why trash bags and bags, in general, became a recurring motif of this collection. A satirical depiction of wealth and luxury such as paper-like materials, trash, and simple fabrics are juxtaposed with elaborate embroidery, sequins, and extensive craftsmanship.”

Ingmar Patton Plusczyk's collection

Kaya Gayoung Lee 

“I started my collection from the movie, ‘The color of pomegranates’, which is directed by Russian director Sergei Parajanov. He depicts the life of an Armenian poet Sayat-Nova. Among so many inspiring parts of this film, I was especially fascinated by the symbols of love.  As I used to be pessimistic about love and believed in the finiteness of love, I was always curious about why people could feel that much empathy towards love songs and poems. Because I’ve barely felt it on a personal level. But this year I wanted to dig in somewhere that I’ve avoided to adventure. I figured out that there are some verbal expressions of love that exist universally. For example, love target, a love arrow, shot to the heart, etc. and I wanted to materialize these sayings into my work.”

Kaya Gayoung Lee's collection

Marc Pengel

“Black culture is often portrayed as primitive and tribal, while black creatives are innovating left and right, and African cities are flourishing. With this collection, I imagined a new future, where we start over and create a new world. In this new world, the black woman gives new meaning to the remnants of our current world, which are the day-to-day objects that we don’t value. I see the future as if this woman was the last human on earth and she is the one who creates life. She forms a closer relationship between the organic and the plastic, a captivating tension between bold physicality and soulful evanescence, working with both weight and weightlessness. I imagine this creator of life rising from a lagoon as if levitating between sea and air. With the sand on the beach, she shapes the contours of the new world. She walks on the landfills of our plastic waste, where she finds a puzzle piece for her new creation.”

Marc Pengel's collection

Nadav Perlman

“With this collection, I wanted to share my observations, experiences, and impressions of the world I see. It’s filled with elements that seem contrasting but inevitably exist together. I tried to better understand my inner conflicts and explore the dualities of humanity. Some of those impressions come from my home and childhood memories, some from my dreams. With those impressions, I wanted to create a balanced image. To show how they are all part of the same story.”

Nadav Perlman's collection

Priss Niinikoski

“Harvest is a collection of wearable objects that highlight the maker as a creative. It discovers the expressiveness of hand-craftsmanship accompanied by the visual language of pre-industrial rural objects. I wanted to question tradition by referencing the ‘past’ and the ‘familiar’ through an abstract translation. Having the form, colour, and simplicity in mind, the process of making works is a comment to the industry to focus on the essence of things we own.”

Priss Niinikoski's collection photographed by @ligiapoplawska

Luca Holzinger

“My master collection is an ode to my grandmother who broke free from a restrictive relationship and led a more fulfilled life after that. I made up an allegory for my collection: a young secretary passes a river on her way to work and cannot resist going for a swim even if she is not supposed to. When she comes back to the office her clothes are messed up in all kinds of ways, but she feels more free and beautiful. She tries to explain herself: ‘I JUST WENT FOR A SWIM’. My collection emphasizes the relation between cut and print. Some pieces look faded from the sun, others look wet. Tailored garments are contrasted by swimwear pieces.”

 

Luca Holzinger's collection

Huize You

“This collection started in April, 2020, when I was “stuck” at home with my family and my very important BA graduation collection. Since then, I have started thinking about how family relations influenced me, everyone’s life and personality. We can’t choose our families, they might be very cold blooded and distant, they could be very controlling, they can be too free and might not give you the push you need. I have very traditional Asian parents, who are controlling and never expressing love. It influenced me a lot. The feelings for your parents are very complicated. You could be stuck in between. We try to meet their expectations, but no matter how hard we try, we will never be the perfect square our parents want us to be. We can never fit completely in their box, even if we tried. The whole collection is also echoed with my role as a fashion student and a mother, the balance is really difficult to keep.”

Huize You's collection

 

Yentsé Yanze Jin 

“I sought to combine oriental and occidental art, culture, and aesthetics to create an elegant quality that runs throughout the collection. Instead of obvious visual languages, I sought to build up the relationship between people and garments. I wanted to transfer the sense of implicit restraint that certain shapes, materials, and details deliver, the way of dressing with sensitive and poetic aesthetics. I explored the combination of cultures. Contemporary tailoring, elegance, modernity, oriental art philosophy, and handcrafts. All the natural materials such as silk, cashmere, wool, cotton, contribute to a poetic build-up of connections between people, environment and garments.”

Zexian Liu 

“The concept is about how uncertain the human identity can be. What I want to express is the transformation of the state. Social labels control who we are and who we think we are supposed to be. When we put on clothes, we should be more concerned with the dialogue with ourselves. How different we wear and fold or place our clothes, these different dressing habits express the uniqueness of our emotions. I design interactive clothing that are put on through an unexpected manners and match them in different ways, which makes it more than clothes ‒ it’s an experience. I express the hybrid of man-made landscape and natural environment abstractly but partially recognisable.”

 

Zexian Liu's collection

Angelika Öllinger

“The idea of my master collection was born after seeing an artwork from Liz Bachhuber. Her art is all about the contrast between the man-made and nature: transparency and wood, natural and artificial materials. The aim of my project is to have that same contrast. A very humble haute-couture feeling. Workwear elements combined with haute-couture tailoring. I did garment research about the 1940s when women started to wear menswear/workwear. The image of Rosie the Riveter arose. Inspiration for my collection came from the photographer Jackie Nickerson and her images of Indian flower market workers, wearing rough workwear but carrying fragile flower goods with them. Since fashion has such a big environmental impact, I wanted to explore what effect nature has on fashion. This idea arose from an experiment I did, hanging a shirt beside the Antwerp river to see how much it would change over time. After a couple of weeks, it mainly had rust spots on the white fabric. That is how the idea for the rust dye on my first silhouette arose. Broken glass bits that I found at the river are included in prints and accessories.”

Julie Kegels

“The primary inspiration for my Master’s Collection is The Dinner Party, an installation artwork by Judy Chicago from 1979 in which she set a gigantic triangular table for 39 strong women. Each place setting is dedicated to a mythical or world-famous woman that played an essential role in the history of female rights. For every woman, she designed a costumized table runner and plate inspired by the story of their life. For my collection, I based myself on twelve of her place settings. You can wear each of my silhouettes, but you could lay them on a table for decoration purposes as well. It was an excellent opportunity to experiment with textiles. I tried to push the boundaries and create fabrics with a soul like embroidery, hand-knits, playful drapes and materials with a structure. I vacuumed old lace with a plastic fabric as this created depth in the shape of lace-flowers. By creating new fabrics, I discovered that making an old fabric look modern is what I genuinely loved doing during the process of this collection. Dressing up for a dinner party has always been a magical experience for me. My collection is based on a picture of a woman standing in front of the mirror holding a dress. Therefore, every piece in my collection has a different front and back. With these primary elements in mind, I developed the concept. In short, I wanted to create a collection for women who love to dress up, to share their style, life vision and history. Most importantly, this collection is for all women who share my love for attending dinner parties.”

Julie Kegels's collection

Mohammed El Marnissi

“My master collection is inspired by a love story from the Middle East. Two people from different tribes which were in a violent conflict, met by accident at the top of a mountain, where they fell in love. Although it was dangerous for them to meet, they found a way to keep their relationship secret and managed to create a labyrinth in front of the mountain. Anyone who would try to follow them would get lost in it. One day, Cuz was killed by an attack from the other tribe. Although Damar was devastated and could have destroyed her lover’s tribe, she decided to end the conflict and unite the two tribes to create peace and harmony. Nowadays we know this city as Damascus, named after Damar and Cuz. This beautiful love story combined with influences from the 60’s and 70’s, in which love had an important part as well, are the foundation of my Master Collection. My collection is a tribute to anyone who strives to be his or her self and breaks through the current way of thinking. Because how beautiful would it be, if we could do what we really like and just wear what we love.”

Mohammed El Marnissi's collection

Minjae Chang

“The title of the collection “Usual Oddity” is inspired by house furniture shapes such as a vintage chair, sofa, table, and stool into a reconstructed shape of garments. During quarantine days I was deeply moved by the house objects surrounding me and I wanted to experiment by making new sculptural silhouettes of garments from furniture shapes. I was also inspired by composition artist Victor Vasarelli’s work for the cut-out detail to show simpleness but unusual shape. It is about interpreting and usual objects translating in a humorous way. I hand drew the prints and made a collage print from the theme of the home.”

Minjae Chang's collection

Bela Jutner

“Diagnosis Dismissed” is a site-specific collection dedicated to an old monastery garden hidden in Antwerp. Its former medical purpose is still rooted in today’s soil through the uncovering of medicinal seeds and plants. This collection explores the process of healing by dissecting the notions of science as well as spirituality in its acts and participants. Visual references are of universal and elementary nature and don’t tap into pop-cultural movements. Here, the experimental use of the knot or the cord, found in the practical fastening of medical wear, make remaining traces visible of what has been uplifted from the body, leaving a difference in relief. Those actions are made visible with the play of textures and intricate stuffing techniques. Ropes are found in various dimensions in the collections, leaving empty traces, forming feathers, or becoming oversized playful details within garments. The latter found their places during a performance taking place in the garden. The visual language of the garments, as well as the articulation formed through various actions of the choreography, made clear the inherent function of each participating garment.”

Bela Jutner's collection

Vincent Thürstein

“This opus aims at uncovering what some of us, Humans, are looking for; a search for ‘the missing element‘. I wanted to make a study on bodies, their different shapes, which are here associated to surfers’ postures. I translated this research in my pieces, as well as reworking the very technical aspects of wetsuits, which allow a body to keep its full movement capacity. The movie ‘The Holy Mountain‘, directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1973, as well as the surf movement’s expansion, appeared in the 1970s.  The aesthetic of the1970’s was for this opus a major anchor, as did the Funk culture and its ideal, but also the wind of fun this light era blew. I wanted to create sculptural objects for my accessories, and reach a form of wearable art through carrying objects.  The unreal world I feel we are living in today leaves me with a sort of ‘tightrope walker impression given by the unclear times we are going through.  Always walking on a thin wire, hanging in the air.  A sensation I refer in my work to the strong surreal and spiritual feelings ‘The Holy Mountain’ can procure. By looking a bit more at what is surrounding us, we might finally find our missing element.”

Ania Yelizar

“A carefree memory of the burning sun, by the pool, in the comfort of your own chair. Premium Vitamin D Couture is a collection that started around the idea of how circumstances are influencing our imagination. My aim was to recreate an imaginary summer holiday dream while facing the modern problem of staying indoors and blending with the surroundings like furniture and paintings. I was looking at old recordings of my summer holidays, the memory was so clear and dreamlike, I wanted to portray everyday life like this vibrant and strong, like primary colours.”

Ania Yelizar's collection

Nicolas Marchiaro

“The collection was conceived around a pagan god, Bogun. I looked at the invocation of ancient Slavic deities and the way they relate to each other, in creating a consistent whole. The narrative is completed by a set of diagrams, which are then linked to Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) processes, effectively bringing their mystical world into the 21st century.”

Nicolas Marchiaro's process

Giorgia Galfré

“For my master collection, I decided to do a retrospective analysis of my personal point of view of my home country Italy. I exposed some of the major issues of the country on a social-political level with the use of faded digital collages translated into fabric printing and jacquard. My home country has changed 65 governments in the past 70 years. A recent law that recognises and penalizes hate crimes for homotransphobia , misogyny, and ableism. I recognize and represent widespread issues such as xenophobia and racism, immigration, disoccupation, toxic masculinity, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, how being transgender is easily associated with prostitution and this last one is still illegal and shady; Italian country leaders and politicians often show themselves as ridiculous figures, corruption and ‘malavita’.

I was strongly inspired by the idealisation of the Italian woman and Italian features coming from 60s Italian movies by Vittorio de Sica e Federico Fellini and their portraits of women like Sofia Loren and Claudia Cardinale. I wanted to recreate the same mood of the ‘Bella vita Italiana’ and its beautiful people and places. With great irony, I made a genderless collection that features womenswear-inspired garments and hand-made ceramic goods and accessories. Through the 10 looks, you can see the importance of sustainable materials,  as I choose the most eco-friendly options available such as organic bio natural fibers, recycled polyester fibers, vegan fabrics, metal and clay.”