FASHION: FIVE EXCITING BELGIANS

Forget all the boring jokes - Belgium's avant-garde designers have been world leaders since the early Eighties. Now a second wave of trend-setters is about to hit our shores. Tamsin Blanchard reports

SINCE THE beginning of the Eighties, Belgium has been a hotbed of avant-garde fashion. Out of the fashion school at Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts came the elusive and influential Martin Margiela, who started his own label in Paris after working with Jean Paul Gaultier. Then came the Antwerp Six - Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester among them - who are now both commercially and creatively acclaimed. Antwerp, any savvy shopper will tell you, is the new Tokyo; in non-fashion speak, while the Japanese dominated the new wave in the Seventies and Eighties, the Belgians have been an equally strong force in the Nineties.

Now a new generation of lowlanders is making its mark. They have been helped along by the now-established Belgian designers, including Walter Van Beirendonck (who opens his own store in Antwerp in September and also teaches at the Academy) and Dries Van Noten. The names Veronique Branquinho, Raf Simons, AF Vandervorst, Lieve Van Gorp and Jurgi Persoons might not mean anything to you now, but they soon will. This autumn, Branquinho, Persoons and Simons are being given star billing at an Antwerp designer boutique called Louis - and as Louis, the first shop to sell Margiela and Demeulemeester, is something of a legend in its own town, its seal of approval is a sure sign of a name to watch.

The secret of the Belgians' success is difficult to pinpoint, but the rigorous Academy (where these pictures were taken) probably has a lot do with it. Students who survive the course - this year only seven graduated out of a group that began with 60 in the first year - have both strong motivation and real talent. Sadly, the Academy's original and rather grand building is crumbling dangerously, so the students are being located to modern premises. It's a pity: these clothes share with the art college's old home a certain aesthetic - quiet, sombre and dark - that is typically and unmistakably Belgian. It must be something in the water. !

FASHION

RAF SIMONS

Simons, who is 28, studied industrial design in Genk, Belgium, and graduated in furniture design. He worked for Walter Van Beirendonck while studying, and through him became interested in fashion. Buyers love his 'new dandy style, inspired by classical clothes but with a teenage look' Hannelore wears black cashmere tank-top, pounds 210, black cotton knitted sweater, pounds 147, black leather sleeveless jacket, pounds 342, and black stretch cotton trousers, pounds 144, all by Raf Simons (enq: 00 33 1 53 36 12 12); black leather boots by Dirk Bikkembergs (enq: 00 33 1 40 27 07 37)

AF VANDERVORST

An Vandervorst, 29, and Filip Arikx, 28, graduated in 1991 from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. An previously worked for Martin Margiela and Dries Van Noten, Filip as a stylist. Their first collection is inspired by German artist Josef Beuys, not just his work but 'his philosophy to rehabilitate the human soul'; they want to translate his ideas into clothes. Buyers say they work 'with emotion' and present a good balance between strong ideas and comfort Sylvie wears white cotton 'chambermaid' shirt, pounds 65, with khaki and beige 'salvation' skirt, pounds 120, both by AF Vandervorst (enq: 00 33 1 42 33 93 18); khaki boots by Robert Clergerie, 67 Wigmore Street, W1 (enq: 0171 935 3601)

VERONIQUE BRANQUINHO

A 1995 graduate of the Royal Academy, Branquinho is 25. After working with Walter Van Beirendonck and Miu Miu, she presented her first Paris collection in March 1998. Inspiration for the new collection came from the character Laura Palmer in 'Twin Peaks': 'dark romanticism, secret feelings, the mysterious nightlife of girls'. Buyers like her clothes because they are chic, casual, simple and sexy Sylvie wears black synthetic turtle-neck top, pounds 64, and trousers, pounds 241, brown and grey striped wool one-button jacket, pounds 303, and grey wool pleated skirt, pounds 198, all by Branquinho, from Browns, 23-27 South Molton Street, W1 (enq: 0171 491 7833), and Joseph, 74 Sloane Avenue, SW3 (enq: 0171 590 6200); black shoes, pounds 265, by Manolo Blahnik for Clements Ribeiro, as before

LIEVE VAN GORP

After studying film, thirtysomething Van Gorp switched to fashion, graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1987. After various styling and assisting jobs, she showed her first collection, 'Warriors', in 1991, and says 'strong women are one of my recurring themes'. She teaches at the Academy, and in 1995 opened her own shop in Antwerp, branching out into menswear two years later. Her theme for this collection was 'Victim or Hero', with zips and leather contrasting with softer drapes and prints Hannelore wears grey wool and leather sleeveless dress, pounds 250, with sheepskin sleeves, pounds 115, both by Lieve Van Gorp (enq: 00 32 32 25 19 65); black leather shoes by Manolo Blahnik for Clements Ribeiro, 49-51 Old Church Street, SW3 (enq: 0171 352 8622)

PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOANNA VAN MULDER STYLING BY ANNE BRAMAUD DU BOUCHERON

HAIR AND MAKE UP BY CHRISTEL LIEBEN

MODELS: HANNELORE AT STEFF, BRUSSELS, AND SYLVIE AT MODEL'S OFFICE, BRUSSELS

SHOT ON LOCATION AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS, ANTWERP

DESIGNER PROFILES BY ADAM FULCHER

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandal

books
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

Edinburgh Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Director Paul Thomas Anderson (right) and his movie The Master featuring Joaquin Phoenix

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
There are no plans to replace R Kelly at the event

music
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>Laura
Carmichael- Lady Edith Crawley</strong></p>
<p>Carmichael currently stars as Sonya in the West End production of
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre. She made headlines this autumn
when Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall shouted at her in a
half-sleepy state during her performance. </p>
<p>Carmichael made another appearance on the stage in 2011, playing
two characters in David Hare’s <em>Plent</em>y
at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. </p>
<p>Away from the stage she starred as receptionist Sal in the 2011
film <em>Tinker Tailor Solider Spy</em>. </p>

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana admits she's

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain