The Antwerp Six, Ann Demeulemeester and Co – Where Are They Now?

In the late 80s, six friends from Antwerp’s then little known Royal Academy set out to take London by storm. They showed up at London Fashion Week with a rented truck filled with their “deconstructivist” samples, and, within days, had made their mark on the fashion world, securing a new international reputation for their school in the process. To this day, it continues to be known as one of the top schools for fashion. Since then, all six, including Dirk van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee have gone on to make names for themselves, although perhaps none more so than Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten.

Walter Van Beirendonck

– is head of the fashion department at the very school where he and fellow designers Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten first got their starts

– in the ’90s, he designed the clothing for the U2 Popmart Tour

– he also designs for the ballet, theatre and movies

Perhaps his biggest accomplishment: His Zulupapuwa line of clothing for children sold at the Belgian retail chain JBC. He somehow makes classic primary colours and the alphabet look edgy!

Ann Demeulemeester

– met with almost immediate success after that critical first London Fashion Week

– like her former classmate Walter, Ann Demeulemeester has forged connections with the music and art world

– her longtime muse, Patti Smith, has contributed original material to the soundtracks for Ann Demeulemeester’s fashion shows

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– Karl Lagerfield once referred to Ann Demeulemeester as one of the most gifted young talents of her time

– Ann Demeulemeester is reportedly at work on a line inspired by artist Jackson Pollock

Interesting fact: Ann Demeulemeester lives in the only house in Belgium to have been designed by superstar architect Le Corbusier. Oh, and you may not have heard of Ann Demeulemeester, because she does not advertise.

Dries Van Noten

In a recent essay for the Wall Street Journal, Alison Gopnik writes that “for most of our history, children have started their internships when they were seven, not 27.” Dries Van Noten definitely belongs to the old school:

– Dries Van Noten comes from a long line of tailors

– Dries Van Noten’s grandfather reportedly introduced the city of Antwerp to the concept of buying clothing off the rack, i.e., ready to wear

– Dries Van Noten’s father ran a high-end clothing boutique in the ’70s

Like Walter Van Beirendonck and Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten has known enormous international success:

– Dries Van Noten has resisted moving to a city such as Paris, which is more of a fashion centre than Antwerp, because he enjoys the anonymity that living in a non fashion-oriented city grants him. If he lived in Paris, people might stop him on the streets. As it is, he made waves there this fashion week with his avant-garde peplum pants, a cerebral take on one of this spring’s hottest trends.

– In 2008, Dries Van Noten was named International Designer of the Year by an American fashion council.

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The influence of Antwerp does not end with these designers. An Antwerp-based boutique called RA is currently the talk of the couture scene. The spirit of the Antwerp Six endures!