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The Antwerp Six: The Story of Fashion's Most Influential Collective

the Antwerp six

In the captivating world of 1980s fashion, a group of six graduates from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium, forever changed the industry's landscape. Ann Demeulemeester, Marina Yee, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dirk Van Saene, and Walter Van Beirendonck - known as the Antwerp Six - took the fashion world by storm, leaving a lasting impact with their daring innovation and unique designs. To this day, their influence continues to inspire new generations of designers.

The Antwerp Six, each with their individual strengths and talents, formed a powerful collective presence that captivated the fashion industry. As graduates of the prestigious Belgian academy, they embodied the bold and boundary-pushing spirit of the 1980s, making their mark with avant-garde collections that defied convention.

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp
The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp

As the cultural epicenter of Europe in the 1980s, London provided the ideal stage for the Antwerp Six's meteoric rise. The city's vibrant club and music scenes, along with its thriving underground culture, nurtured creative talent and helped establish London as a major player in the global fashion industry. Influential magazines like Dazed & Confused, Blitz, and The Face showcased young, experimental designers' work, setting the stage for the Antwerp Six to break through.

The Antwerp Six - London
The Antwerp Six In London

The unique social and political climate of the 1980s played a significant role in shaping the Antwerp Six's revolutionary approach to fashion. Amid social unrest, high unemployment, and the rise of HIV/AIDS, a sense of urgency and desire for change permeated society, fueling the designers' creativity. Despite these challenges, the decade was also marked by prosperity, allowing businesses to invest in new and experimental talent, creating an environment in which the Antwerp Six could thrive.

The impact of the Antwerp Six rippled through the fashion industry, signaling a shift as designers worldwide began to adopt their rebellious spirit and push the boundaries of traditional fashion. Their iconic designs and fearless innovation mixed with their groundbreaking approach to fashion, set a new standard for creativity, originality, and artistic expression, inspiring countless designers over the years. Raf Simons who interned under Walter Van Beirendonck has often expressed his admiration for the Antwerp Six, drawing on their minimalist and deconstructed designs. Haider Ackermann, another Antwerp-rooted designer, showcases the Antwerp Six's avant-garde influence through his emphasis on draping and layering. Demna Gvasalia, the creative director of Balenciaga and co-founder of Vetements, pushes boundaries with bold and subversive designs, reflecting the Antwerp Six's innovative spirit. Additionally, while not directly part of the Antwerp Six, Martin Margiela, the founder of Maison Margiela, is often associated with the Belgian avant-garde movement they pioneered, given his conceptual and experimental designs. These designers exemplify the far-reaching impact of the Antwerp Six, whose daring and unconventional approach to fashion continues to shape the work of both established and emerging creatives in the industry.

Dirk Bikkembergs Fall 2018
Dirk Bikkembergs Fall 2018

Dries van Noten fall 2015
Dries van Noten fall 2015.


Kendall Jenner wearing Ann Demeulemeester

Today, the spirit of rebellion and creative risk-taking that defined the Antwerp Six remains a vital force in the fashion world. Their legacy serves as a reminder of the transformative power of creativity and the potential for innovation in fashion. The Antwerp Six continue to inspire designers worldwide to be bold, challenge the status quo, and fearlessly redefine what is possible in fashion, proving that their impact is as relevant today as it was during the groundbreaking 1980s.


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