“I will always be me,” Belgian fashion designer Julie Kegels told 1 Granary. Ever since primary school, she dreamt of joining the fashion department at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp – the city where she was born and raised. The stars aligned, and we’ve got an exciting, emerging fashion designer coming from the famously off-beat, “fifth” fashion capital. Her unconventional approach towards silhouettes, and ability to fuse the media of fashion and art, are distinct in her first, proper collection. The main inspiration from Kegels’s Masters Collection is “The Dinner Party“, the installation by Judy Chicago from 1979, in which the feminist artist set a gigantic, triangular table for 39 women from across history. Each place setting was dedicated to a mythical or world-famous woman that played an essential role in the history of female rights. For every woman, she designed a custom place setting inspired by the story of their life. For her collection, Kegels focused on the twelve of these settings. You can wear each of the silhouettes, but you can lay them on a table for decoration purposes as well. The whole concept was an excellent opportunity to experiment with textiles. “I tried to push the boundaries and create fabrics with a soul like embroidery, hand knits, playful drapes and materials with structure. I vacuumed old lace with a plastic fabric as this created depth in the shape of laceflowers. By creating new fabrics, I discovered that making an old fabric look modern is what I genuinely loved doing during the process of this collection“. The designer continues: “Dressing up for a dinner party has always been a magical experience for me. My line-up is based on a picture of a woman standing in front of the mirror holding a dress. Therefore, every piece in my collection has a different front and back. With these primary elements in mind, I developed the concept.” The final effect is both futuristic and retro; familiar, yet totally unknown. The look-book, photographed by Anton Fayle and art directed by Studio M, transports you to the unique world of Kegels, where nothing is as it seems. Keep Kegels’ work on your radar – and don’t forget to check out her Instagram!
“We were in, I think, the fifth lockdown here in Antwerp when we started on this collection. And when I talked with my team to discuss what it would be about, it was really about outbursts: We’ve had it, and now we want to have fun, we want to party, we want to enjoy things, we want to go into the city and we want to see people.” So said Dries Van Noten, laying out his manifesto for a sensually hedonistic season while simultaneously echoing the Peter Fonda–sampled intro to Primal Scream’s “Loaded”, the soundtrack to the line-up’s excellent collection video: “We want to be free to do what we want to do!… And we want to get loaded! And we want to have a good time! And that’s what we’re gonna do!” Without inquiring as to whether Van Noten and his team got loaded, they clearly had a blast putting together this lovingly local, energy rush of a collection. That team made a shared folder of smartphone photos taken around the city, from industrially scenic crane landscapes to strobe-lit club shots via moody pool hall milieus, which were integrated as prints on paneled parkas and silky shirts. These images were then accented against a ’70s vintage Antwerp municipal logo and etchings taken (with permission) from two of Flanders’s most famous sons, Breughel and Rubens. The collaged images on the garments were shot against a backdrop of more city locales, to 56 of which Dries and his team dragged a white podium to make the look book. Of them all, the pink-tabarded school trip in look six proved ultimate evidence that these were not scenes just lazily projected in post. Van Noten said his attitude to this collection was: “What is menswear? What is womenswear? Just throw it all together and take what you like.” Conventional dichotomies were rendered attractively void in “womenswear” looks featuring tailored, overlong, and overdyed pants in English mohair over slides, and an awesome “menswear” camo parka and suit in 35 gram silk plongée lined in cotton voile. Geographically specific to Antwerp, but tolerantly nonspecific in terms of the geography of received gender norms, this was a collection that did indeed look great to get loaded in.
Raf Simons‘ latest collections are more straightforward and easier in approach – yet they have that elusive spark that makes the designer’s work so attractive. For autumn-winter 2021, Simons stated his simple mission: “The collection is about things I love – things I have always loved, that are always there in every collection, in the processes behind it, and the clothes.” This season, silhouettes loosen and expand, almost magnetically propelling away from the body rather than clinging to it. The quilted A-line coats, some layered with puffy vests, and gigantic mushroom cap knits with strass brooches and dot patterns must be the largest garments he has ever offered. Wearing them with relaxed, gently flared trousers, the models look like atomic clouds, their clothing the electrons circling their forms but never touching them. The best part of big, baggy, enveloping clothing is that it really does look good on everyone. In addition to the over-sized silhouette, Simons has also vastly expanded the collection of small, wantable things that hover around his garments. Ivory runner boots with a pastel gum heel are back, while a vast range of teenage-looking jewelry – hearts, logos, and dangly rib cage earrings – accompanies the clothing. The funniest baubles must be the skeleton hand bangles, fixed high on models’ arms. What I loved most is the dynamic colour palette – bubble-gum pink, pea-green, plastic-yellow, baby-blue… delightful! Simons chose six words to title this collection: ataraxia, equanimity, dichotomy, synchronicity, allegiance, devotion. Peacefulness is the big story, even amidst the techno-medical disasters of our world. Keeping the balance is always a good idea.
This season, we’ve had more of Raf Simons than usual – first in his new role at Prada back in September, and now in his name-sake label’s co-ed spring-summer 2021 collection. There are few working designers so vocally obsessed with youth culture as Simons. But the youth Simons seeks to explore isn’t exactly the youth of today – the young people advocating for climate justice, leading protests against police brutality and racism, and volunteering as poll workers. It’s his own youth that interests him. The metadata of his website, where he streamed his spring 2021 film “Teenage Dreams,” reads: “I don’t want to show clothes, I want to show my attitude, my past, present, and future. I use memories and future visions and try to place them in today’s world.” Designers are plumbing their own histories more than ever in this digital and isolated season, but this has always been Simons’s way. The press release for his teen dream collection lists the films that inspired him, many of which he has cited before, from Alien and Alice in Wonderland to Picnic at Hanging Rock and A Nightmare on Elm Street. That’s the totality of Simons’s statements on this collection, which features his first official foray into womenswear at this brand and his first fashion film since his start in the late ’90s, when similarly rakish models loafed about in Belgian photo studios and homes. Back then they smoked ciggys and drank champers and smushed into a single couch. In today’s film they populate in a nuclear floral set by Mark Colle: possessed, crawling on the floor, snatched into a web. As Simons’s youth in revolt slunk around in the film, punctuated by pulsing beats by Senjan Jansen, his signatures came into focus. The silhouette was as slim as ever and there was ample sloganeering and graphics, things his customers old and young adore, as well as photo prints of family members of Raf’s studio team. Raf stans will appreciate the continuity of his long lean silk skirts, colorful turtlenecks with R monograms at the throat, sleeveless tunics, and body-wrapping perspex tops. A big mustard knit, the sort of sweater Simons himself often wears, will be another fan favorite. It’s worn by both a male and female model, proving the point that while this is technically a womenswear debut, female shoppers have long found comfort in Simons’s work.
Every so often a label appears out of nowhere that piques my interest. This happened with Tuinch, a brand I’ve discovered while browsing Moda Operandi’s trunkshows last season. I fell in love with it at the first sight – and you will, too. Founder Veronique Vermussche is a passionate knitter, spending much of her free time creating elaborate sweaters and other garments. She combines this passion with her other ones: fashion and travel. The story of Tuinch started quite by coincidence. Traveling home from a vacation in the Himalayas, Veronique’s flight got delayed and she found warmth and comfort wrapping herself in a cashmere scarf bought from a local artisan. This way Veronique fell in love with cashmere, the beloved material that feels likes silk, but warms like lamb wool. The idea grew to develop a cashmere-only knitwear line. Back home she started working on her first collection, autumn-winter 2016, and travelled back extensively to the Himalayas to understand all aspects of the Asian cashmere tradition and to source the finest wool and discover the best artisans. Tuinch’s collections combine an artistic vision with elegant silhouettes. They are truly innovative by revisiting cashmere in not so classic designs we often see in stores and from other brands. The Antwerp-based label is about to release two new capsule collections for autumn-winter season. One is more bold and playful, with an energetic colour palette and knitted, three-dimensional bees (!) stuck on the sleeves. The other capsule is equally artisan, but more suited for, let’s say, beautiful mountain trips or escapes to the country. Those earthy shades used in oversized cardigans, ponchos and turtlenecks look too good. Not speaking of all the timeless, tartan plaids… I tell you, keep Tuinch on your radar when colder days come. Here are the knits that will serve for years!