This weekend I attended the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts' Fashion Department graduation show. As you may know, the Antwerp Academy is regarded as one of the most influential fashion schools in the world, and alumni mostly end up at the helm of major fashion houses or acclaimed labels of their own. From first-years to master students: everyone who survives this tough course gets to show what they're made of during a high energy runway show, lasting for over four hours. I decided to focus on the menswear that was shown, but it goes without saying that the womenswear was of a most outstanding level as well.
Seeing this show is like shuffling fashion tarot cards. Trying to find out which designer is going to be so maj one day that you can smugly be all like: 'Yah, I saw his/her graduate collection 5 years ago, I knew that shit was gonna pop off'. Shows like this may be all about the talent of tomorrow, but I must say I already loved much of what I saw today.
EMMANUEL ANTOINE RYNGAERT
Emmanuel must have been the busiest queen bee in the hive last weekend. Not only did he put out his own collection, since he's signed with top modeling agency Dominique Models he also walked the runway for just about every other designer that night. His collection 'Welcome to the Park' smacked the gender binary right in the face with towering cage heels, purple croc and fur jackets and logo-spraypainted headscarves. His lace trousers confirm the statement that men's lace - also championed by London designers Astrid Andersen and J.W. Anderson - isn't going anywhere.
Casper Werner's 'Bad Education' collection was one of my favourites of the night. The boiler suit bustiers paired with turtle necks, the trainers and the cinched waists gave these looks quite a minimal feel in comparison to the other collections, but that didn't make me notice them less. The styling was very on-point, and even though Werner is only in his second year, it's clear he already has a very distinct sense of where he is headed.
Outerwear to die for. Janina Hoffman combines texture and silhouette in a dramatic but instantaneously likeable way. The puffiness of the sleeves, the roundness of the shoulderline is paired flawlessly with vibrant prints and high-gloss fabrics.
Beinkes highly covetable snapbacks paired with contrast-print long coats give her 'Villagetown' collection an interesting streetwear nod, juxtaposed by references to religion (a wooden cross harness and rosaries) and a play on gender norms (the lace detailing and sheer long skirts). Decidedly current and very well-executed.
The internets have come to play with this one. Benji Wong's 'That Paradise Would Be a Meme' collection is Tumblr come alive: the silver platform sneakers, the TNGHT soundtrack, the caps and tabards lined with strips of pink, yellow and metallic silver. It's a kick up the arse and I am so here for it.
The bold metallics of Eran Shanny's 'Cabinet of Curiosities' are a visual treat. Showing skill in tailoring (the billowy draping of those stiff fabrics), cut (the suiting and lilac mohair trousers) and embroidery (the beetle jumper and brooch appliqués); the Israeli-born designer has created an army of liquidy smooth men that look like futuristic royalty.
For the 'Bravo Foxtrot' collection, Cuyvers' men walked fiercely and without reserve. The studded moss-coloured rubber sleeves, the fur hats and cross-emblazoned kilts herald quite a visceral darkness that is equal parts kink and regal.
Shout-out to my man Mike for crawling down the runway on all-fours and to the amazing Mr. Walter Van Beirendonck for sitting right across from me.
DEVON HALFNIGHT LEFLUFY
I already knew Devon Halfnight Leflufy had great taste when he cast my boyfriend to be a fit model for his master's collection earlier this year (insert winking emoji here), but 'True Believer' just made my jaw drop. With gospel hands in the air I saw the most amazing coats with laser cut leather appliqués, intricate embroidery on jumpers and pastel palm tree sweatpants. Inspired by L.A. teen queens, hip hop (the Trinidad James soundtrack just brought it home) and matched with artwork by Brian Kokoska, Leflufy's graduate collection just leaves me dizzy with excitement. I know my fam over at KNOTORYUS loves Leflufy as well, so be sure to check out their upcoming interview with him.
Pony hair shorts in the richest of hues, glossy prints of contorted faces, oversized clutches and shift dresses paired with calf-length boots lend this collection an air of sophistication that is anything but crude. The neckscarves, cut of the pink trousers and shift dresses gave me slight AW13 Raf Simons meets J.W. Anderson vibes which indicates a mindframe similar to the industry greats. I'm quite intrigued to find out what Arvanitis will put out next.
Vanseveren's 'Play Time' collection was the most ready-to-sell of the evening. With an intelligent play on colourblocking and outerwear tailoring, the commercial viability of these garments is quite evident. The yellows, blues and greens of the collection had a naïve appeal that ran all the way through to the shoes co-produced with Sacha.
Shout-out to Maarten Convens, the young androgynous male model that I was enraptured with all night. He's going places, for sure.
All images by me.