Show 2014 Poster - ©Photography Ronald Stoops
In 2013, the Fashion Department of the Antwerp Academy celebrated its 50th birthday. In half a century the school has managed to create a reputation as one of the best in the world. In doing so, the school has also helped to put the city of Antwerp on the world fashion map.
Show 2014 Poster - ©Photography Ronald Stoops

Although the Fashion Department of the Antwerp Academy has become one of the most famous in the world, its founders met with considerable opposition. Opponents felt that fashion did not have a place within a traditional art academy. The school's first director, Mary Prijot, led the department following the example of French elegance. She also made several decisions that still cast a strong influence on the course curriculum today: she placed a strong emphasis on the graphic artistry of fashion design and gave the end-of-year fashion shows a central position in the school's calendar. 


Prijot's leadership was unquestioned until 1981 when the first of the Antwerp Six graduated. Prijot, with her classical approach, then had to make way for the more avant-garde vision of the Six. It was this new vision that would put the school on the map internationally. In 1985, Linda Loppa took over the reins from Prijot as director, and it was also at this time that Walter Van Beirendonck came to teach at the school. Van Beirendonck is now the head of the school, a position to which he was appointed in 2006. 


Fifty nationalities
The same international, avant-garde character can still be observed in the collections coming out of the Academy’s Fashion Department today. The diversity and creative freedom exhibited is striking; every collection has a totally unique look. No surprise, then, that the Academy attaches a great deal of importance to the development of a signature artistic style. This is also why students flock from all over the world to study fashion in Antwerp. Students like the South Korean Minju Kim who received the H&M Design Award in 2013 for her final-year collection, 'Dear My Friend'. All in all, there are approximately fifty different nationalities represented in the department. 


Some students stick around in Antwerp after their studies, which ensures a glut of fashion talent in the city on the Scheldt. Take recent graduate Devon Halfnight Leflufy, for example, who is currently building up an international career based out of the city, or the Antwerp-based Haider Ackermann whose work has been a constant presence on the world’s catwalks for years. Others – such as Cedric Jacquemyn, Christian Wijnants and AF Vandevorst – fan out across the globe and either end up working for the most prestigious fashion houses or starting their own labels. 


The school's end-of-year fashion show is a hotly anticipated event, as is that of the equally prestigious Belgian fashion school La Cambre in Brussels. It is at these shows that the students finally reveal to the public – not to mention a professional, international jury – the collections they have been tirelessly working on all year. For the students, this is the perfect chance to be spotted by key players in the national and international fashion world and to launch their careers.

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