'It started with Martin Margiela — that was the moment in my opinion,' says Sozzani. 'But the Belgian designers were not in competition — they were all helping each other and that made them stronger. The Japanese didn't like each other. For me, Rei Kawakubo was the most modern. But Margiela was new in his interpretation of real life.'
The most famous Japanese designers, born at the time of the Hiroshima atomic bomb in 1945, have always seemed angrier and more iconoclastic than the Belgian designers, most of whom were born one or two decades later. Whereas the Japanese aesthetic was often based on destruction, Antwerp — and particularly Margiela’s work — was the origin of recycling and a sensiblity that tried to counteract the concept of fashion as intrinsically wasteful.
Since the period when Belgian designers were discovering an identity, until today, the initial aims and ideas seem to have survived. In the current digital world that connects via cyberspace, personal and national identities are still strong in Antwerp.
This can be daunting to those from outside. Columbian born Haider Ackermann, who was adopted by a French family and raised in Africa, was aware of himself as an outsider when he attended the Antwerp Academy. ‘There was a lot of insecurity, I was not Belgian, but I wanted to fit in,’ the designer admits. And however much he appreciated ‘wonderful Linda Loppa’ and her encouragement, he never got used to the heavy grey clouds. ‘I don’t know any other city with such a claustrophobic sky. It’s certainly not Paris. It is a strange city. Dark, down to earth.’
To Ackermann, the Belgian aesthetic went far deeper than a preference for neutral over rich colours or for simple fabrics over elaborate ones. ‘Antwerp is not a place to shout it out, in your face, but they respected that I just wanted to work at my own rhythm,’ he says. ‘With Walter van Beirendonck, our aesthetics were very different. I did not try his world — and he respected my sensibility. I learned a lot.’
— Suzy Menkes | A Sense of Place (via vroomheid)
I don’t insist on contemporary artists being politically active but they ought to be politically conscious. And if I could be that blunt, I think the art market has been the biggest factor in determining art movements for the past decade or so; and the money involved has seduced galleries, collectors and artists to becoming super rich and very, very distanced from sociopolitical issues; art has basically become a commodity and about entertainment.
I’m tired of my life, my clothes, the things I say. I’m hacking away at the surface, as at some kind of gray ice, trying to break through to what is underneath or I am dead. I can feel the surface trembling—it seems ready to give but it never does. I am uninterested in current events. How can I justify this? How can I explain it?
— James Salter (via brutalite)