The Belgians: An Unexpected Story Exhibition

Above, Martin Margiela SS1991 ©Ronald Stoops

Belgium is celebrating its fashion legacy, and not just with the Antwerp Six: a new exhibition at the Bozar museum will showcase the work of around 100 designers, from highly celebrated names like Raf Simons and Olivier Theyskens to emerging labels such as Filles à papa and Christian Wijnants. The show has been curated by the flamboyant artistic director of MAD Brussels and professor at Ghent’s famous La Cambre academy, @DidierVervaeren. He’s been poised to produce it for six years, so the scope of what Vervaeren and his team have gathered is quite astounding. He calls the exhibition his ‘baby’ but there’s no doubt that this labour of love would have caused some serious headaches with so many catwalk pieces on display.

Curator Didier Vervaeren in Zoolander mode on Instagram
Curator Didier Vervaeren in Zoolander mode on Instagram

 

The seminal six – Dries Van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Marina Yee, Dirk Van Saene, Walter Van Beirendonck, and Ann Demeulemeester – naturally play a pivotal role in the exhibition, as does Martin Margiela ‘the unclassifiable and iconoclastic leader of Belgian fashion’ who has been honoured with the largest share of the floor space.

 

This is a shameless showcase of patriotism and so it should be – it’s easy to forget just how much talent has emanated from this small country (did you know Diane Von Furstenberg was born in Brussels?. Rather than following a chronological timeline or ordering the exhibits into obvious schools of thought, Verhaeren has sought to group the works into ‘chapters’ that highlight an innate Belgian attitude towards fashion or ‘Belgitude’ as it is referred to in the catalogue, defined by a strong sense for the surreal, a love of experimentation, hands-on craftsmanship and a multi-disciplinary engagement with the arts. Get on that Eurostar!