Antwerp Academy Graduate Show

Graduate collections are fascinating. They let us into the brave new worlds of young minds and give us the possibility to rethink the rules. What should a jacket be? Can it have four sleeves? And what are pants exactly? Should they be symmetrical or can they reveal a leg on one side, thus turning a woman into a dazzling glamour babe?

All of this was on my mind as I sat watching the graduating students’ collections of the Antwerp Academy. More than ever—and especially more than last year—the young “master” designers on show did not come up with collections that could be in a shop window tomorrow. These were conceptual collections—designers on a mission, so to speak, not worried about the need to sell immediately. And what a relief it was.

Frederich Hornof produced an interesting take on volume and cut, experimenting with longer silhouettes, tunics over pants, and large shapes at the head and waist. The models’ faces were wrapped (think beekeeper) in a fabric that seemed to morph into the rest of the silhouette. He made colors like fuchsia, gray green, silver and even off-white seem quite fascinating. Frederich also won the Sacha Award for Best Shoe Design of the year.

A personal favorite, Jantine Van Peski‘s completely handmade collection focused on craftsmanship and silhouette. Strongly influenced by the loose knits of the seventies, especially macramé, she constructed entire pieces out of cord and yarn. Jantine is also a finalist at IT’s Ten in Trieste, Italy, next month, and is currently exhibiting her collection at the Antwerp Studio Job gallery (Begijnenvest 8, Antwerp).

Leonneke Derksen tricked us into believing the back of a garment can be as nice as the front. Her long jackets were beautifully trimmed up to the neck, and in the back, the collar was left open, as if the front, an illusion reinforced by masks worn on the back of the head. The collection seemed to be modeled on a stock form, on which she added a blouse, a skirt, a jacket. The result—in candy colors—looked awkward yet stunning.

The coveted finale was given to Niels Peeraer and his graduate collection, Guess Technology Isn’t Ready for Pancake Teleportation. And what a finale. Just like in his 3rd bachelor collection last year, Niels got us thinking about preconceived notions of masculinity and femininity. Can a man wear a tutu? What about a pink Chanel-style jacket? His ambiguous take on a man’s wardrobe looked far from ridiculous; it was poetry with a deeper meaning. For how should we see the many belts or shin guards in his collection, as if the boys needed protection from the cruel world out there? Needless to say, Niels walked away with the most votes by the international jury.

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