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Antwerp offers so much more than just chocolates and diamonds

  Sunday 19th February 2012

There are several names that can be linked to a city. London is associated with Adele, David Beckham, Prince William, while Paris has Coco Chanel, Olivier Martinez and Brigitte Bardot to name a few.

The city of Antwerp in Belgium is related to the Antwerp Six: Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee. These six designers influenced and shaped Antwerp into the fashion city that it is today.

All of them, Antwerp Royal Academy graduates from the 1980s, have their own distinctive style. In 1988 and as a team, they set out with their collections for London Fashion Week, which was the turning point in their careers.

If you see Walter Van Beirendonck walking down the street with his huge beard, intense eyes and tattoos, you would never associate him with fashion, but rather consider him as a biker.

In 1997, he designed the costumes for U2’s PopMart Tour. His clothing line is famous for its violently contrasting colours, erotic and sadomasochistic references. It’s not just clothing, it’s a message he wants to send across: this beaded top is part of his Read my Skin collection.

Ann Demeulemeester is far edgier with her designs. Her creations set a certain dark mood, as she tends to slash, rip or tear them. Ann’s signature style is her slouchy masculine look. This is evident if you look at the army inspired ‘Triple Lace Up Flat Tall Boots’ for women.

Dries van Noten is known to have devotees such as Texas lead singer Sharleen Spiteri and Nicole Kidman. He has a flair for colour that is intense yet not overbearing. He manages to fuse different fabrics and styles together, all notably inspired by the Far East, India and Morocco. Dries’ designs are graceful and exotic.

Dirk Van Saene is more sober in comparison to the other designers already mentioned. He doesn’t believe in following trends. His collections are one-of-a-kind and constantly changing according to what inspires him. The dress shown here was a part of an exhibition in the Modenatie museum entitled ‘The Little Black Dress’.

Dirk Bikkembergs claims ‘I am married to fashion and will remain faithful.’ After launching the first professional football boot designed by a fashion designer in 2006, his line of sport shoes and T-shirts, this gifted designer is now solidly associated with football. So much so that Inter Milan asked him to design for their team.

Finally, Marina Yee’s take on design is to reconstruct old clothes and give them a new life. Her work is very spiritual and respectful; she follows a very different approach than her fellow Antwerp Six.

These six have established themselves on the international fashion circuit paving the way for others such as Martin Margiela, Raf Simons and Veronique Branquinho to follow in their footsteps. So why not come and see their window displays for yourself by heading over to Selfridges.

Pooja Sahny

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