What Is Belgian

If Belgian fashion cannot be understood in terms of a single style and if nationality itself is not the determining factor, what do these different designers have in common that makes their work recognizably Belgian? It is not the intention here to formulate a definition as such, but rather to indicate a number of aspects that contribute to the specific identity of the Belgian designers. One important factor is undoubtedly their training at the Royal Academy in Antwerp, with "individuality" and "creativity" being the principle concepts. Personal growth and creative development of the student are fundamental at school, without this one loses sight of the link between professional life. The personal approach also extends to the various peripheral activities that come along with the presentation of a collection, ranging from exceptional attention to the graphic design for the invitations and catalogs and particular focus on the location and design of the fashion show to a warm welcome in the showroom. One need only think of the now historic presentations of Martin Margiela's collections in an abandoned Metro station or Salvation Army depots, Dries Van Noten's delight-to-behold, beautiful shows, or the art performance tone of the presentations by Bernhard Willhelm and Ju-rgi Persoons for illustrations of this approach.

Nonetheless, the collection and the love and passion for clothing always take first place. With the Belgians, there is no superstar allure, or coquetry, but a healthy mix of humility, sobriety, and daring, and this translates first and foremost in the apparel itself. There is no blinding haute couture for the Belgians, but there is attention to professional craftsmanship, the study of form and concept; no out-of-control profits in the wake of the luxury houses, but a self-sufficiently structured enterprise in which as many factors as possible are kept under the de signers' own control; no top models whose star status relegates the clothes to subservient status, but real girls with character.

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