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Fashion, by nature, is an inconsistent art form. It quite literally changes with the seasons. However, Belgian fashion has been consistently stylish, popular, and reputable, as displayed by numerous successes at many different fashion weeks. Belgium also boasts the Antwerp Design academy, which regularly produces innovative and interesting newcomers. Check out these ten internationally acclaimed Belgian fashion designers to stay with today’s top trends.
Liz Claiborne is an American fashion designer who was born in Brussels. In 1986, she co-founded her company, Liz Claiborne Inc., which turned into the first company founded by a woman to make the Fortune 500 list. Claiborne’s original inspiration was her frustration in finding stylish clothes for the modern working woman. The innovative idea of grouping all items of one brand name together in a department store originally came from Claiborne, and thus she has also determined the layout of all most modern clothing stores.
Diane Von Furstenberg was born and raised in Brussels. She has said that her mother, a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp, instilled an attitude of resilience in her. She decided to become a designer upon her brief marriage to Prince Egon Von Fuürstenberg. Most commonly known for her iconic wrap dress, she has created a sophisticated and sleek women’s clothing and accessory line that has created a loyal patronage to her classic yet bold style. The dress is deemed so pivotal in women’s fashion that it is featured in the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Olivier Strelli is known for catalyzing Belgium’s entry into the fashion industry with his accessible yet upmarket ready-to-wear range. He has boutiques in Belgium, Switzerland, China, and France. His line includes clothing, shoes, and accessories for both men and women; and his popular Europe-inspired line is angular yet sophisticated. Notable patrons of his clothing lines include The Rolling Stones, Brigitte Bardot, and even the Belgian Royal Family. Strelli is even a recognizablepart of Belgian public transportation, as he designed the uniforms for railway workers. On the list of the 100 greatest Belgians of all time, Strelli was voted 56th through a Belgian French-speaking channel called Les Plus Grands Belges.
Elvis Pompilio, born into a family of Italian origin, is a Belgian hat designer. The work he has produced has been in fashion shows for lines such as Dior and Valentino. He has retail stores in Brussels, Paris, Antwerp and London, and his hats are also sold in the Japan and United States . In 2005, Pompilio was a nominee on Les Plus Grands Belges and ended up finishing in 84th place. Pompilio’s lines serve a variety of purposes, and can fit in at the most bizarrely avant-garde wedding or the most fustian function.
Walter Van Beirendonck is a part of the Antwerp Six, a group of well-known fashion designers who graduated from the Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Now head of his alma mater, Walter is inspired by culture, nature and visual arts. He is the driving force for change and cultivation of the fashion industry in Belgium, and he uses innovative designs to create his graphically strong collections, which include unusual color combinations and bold patterns. His clothing is eye-catching and bright. In 1997, he designed the costumes for the ‘PopMart Tour’ for U2. Walter has designed for top talents in today’s fashion world, such as Raf Simons and Kris van Assche. Training and teaching other people has proved to Van Beirendonck to be just as rewarding and important as designing individually.
Dries van Noten is a well-known Belgian fashion designer and brand. He lives in Antwerp but has several stores in various locations worldwide. He was essentially destined to be a fashion designer, as his grandfather was a tailor and his father owned a menswear shop. His career began after he presented his first collection to The Antwerp Six collective following his graduation from The Royal Academy of Fine Arts. In 2005, the New York Times described him as “one of fashion’s most cerebral designers.” His style is extraordinarily unconventional and was less popular in the 1990s but made an exciting comeback in the early-2000s.
Ann Demeulemeester was born in Waregem, Belgium and is also a part of the Antwerp Six. She is most commonly known for her appearances in Paris Fashion Week. Like many others, she studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Initially, Ann was not interested in fashion and was more focused on visual art. However, her interest shifted to people, stature, and physique, and she started thinking more seriously about how this incorporated itself into fashion and clothing. Ann immediately found success after graduating by winning the ‘Golden Spindle’ award, which is a prize awarded annually to the most promising fashion designer of the year. Clearly, her future was bright and full of textiles. Before releasing her own line in 1985, she worked as a freelance designer. Her styles, influenced by gothic and Japanese methodology, are characteristic, easily recognized and are focused mainly on sexuality and emotion. Ann always strives to push herself more in providing the public with new styles.
Dirk Bikkembergs is a Belgian fashion designer who was born in Cologne, Germany. He spent most of his childhood in Diepenbeek, Limburg, Belgium and graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. In 1996, Dirk was focused mainly on football uniforms, and became the first fashion designer to carry out a fashion show in a football stadium. All of his designs were tested and worn by football players to ensure quality and functionality. In 1985, he won the ‘Golden Spindle’ award for ‘Best Young Designer in Fashion.’ Today, his brand includes a diverse line of clothing for men, women and kids as well as an outerwear collection, and is deemed accessible and ready-to-wear.
Dirk Van Saene is a Belgian fashion designer who is also part of the famous Antwerp Six. He is known his interestingly angular clothing and colorblocking that appears throughout his various collections. He graduated from the fashion department of the Antwerp Academy in 1981 and opened a shop called Beauties & Heroes where he sold originally crafted designs. After working for a while with an Italian manufacturer, he held his own show in Paris. He is now the head of the 4th year at the Antwerp Academy. Having recently opened a boutique in Antwerp called DVS, you may see some of his impressive pieces in the windows along Schuttershofstraat 9.
Marina Yee, another member of the Antwerp Six, was born in Belgium and attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Shortly after graduating, she left for London to make a name for herself and launched her own commercial brand, Marie. She joined with the Belgian brand Lena Lena and another Antwerp Six member, Dirk Bikkembergs. Mostly known for repurposing pieces of old clothing to add to her new creations, she still has a workshop where she creates her one-of-a-kind pieces.