As one of the Antwerp Six — the influential group of avant-garde Belgian fashion designers who graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the early ’80s, including Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester — Walter Van Beirendonck helped put Belgium on the map as a fashion capital. Currently head of the Royal Academy’s fashion department, Van Beirendonck talks about menswear, the Antwerp Six, social media and more ...
On menswear: "I think that Thom Browne as an American designer, is doing an important statement about menswear. Comme des Garçons – Rei Kawakubo – she’s doing that too. Thom Browne is much more interesting in menswear than in womenswear."
On social media: "I do enjoy new technologies, but of course I’m also critical of them. I’m on Facebook, but sometimes it almost embarrasses me to see how people are throwing themselves at the unknown world. I just think it’s become very difficult today to keep a secret because of the internet."
On the Antwerp Six: "At the time, there was no Belgian fashion, there were no Belgian magazines, there was nothing happening. So we made it happen. I had class with Martin Margiela and Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester and Dirk Bikkembergs, and we were just a group of friends. But we really were very ambitious, one way or another, because we felt literally locked in Antwerp. We were desperate to get out. When we went to London as a group, it helped get us noticed. At the British Designers show, the press found our names so surrealistic and difficult to pronounce that they just called us the Antwerp Six."
On Raf Simons: "I think it’s an amazing opportunity. It’s incredible that he is going to do it. It’s like a dream for a designer, to get into such a house and to have this possibility, and I’m sure that he’s going to do fantastic things. I think coming from the avant-garde to such a big house can work very well, and I think that bringing Raf to Dior is a very interesting way of thinking about fashion. It’s similar to Galliano—someone new, different, and that can give a very fresh approach. Fashion needs that."
On his clients: My clients are rather particular, and in America, for example, I only have like four or five stores. Because you have to really follow my way of thinking and all the department stores are afraid of me. So I really need these loyal stores. I develop relationships with these places."