The Belgian Fashion Awards are back after a year's absence. For the fourth time, a multitude of Belgian designers and fashion industry people are being honoured during a festive evening at Antwerp's event venue, the Handelsbeurs. The 14-member international BFA jury presided over by jury chairman Chris Dercon, who is president of the Grand Palais in Paris, handed out no less than seven awards. Besides the Belgian art historian, the jury also included fashion designer Christian Wijnants (BE), Pascale Mussard (FR), and Vena Brykalin of Vogue Ukraine. The awards themselves this year are a creation of the Antwerp designer and ceramist Wouter Hoste. The big winner of the evening is Walter Van Beirendonck who walked away with the jury prize.
This year's Jury Prize goes to fashion designer Walter Van Beirendonck. The international jury praised the Belgian designer for his influential and social contributions that he translates into his designs. His influence extends across generations. 'Walter Van Beirendonck appeals to an international audience. In particular, his designs give his views on politics, gender, and equality a voice even in Covid times. He was present more than ever before on the international scene in the last two years,' concluded the jury's verdict.
The Designer of the Year award goes to the 38-year-old Nicolas Di Felice, the new man at French fashion house Courrèges. After graduating from the La Cambre in Brussels, he gained experience under Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton. His first autumn-winter collection was met with international applause. The jury praised him for the 'unlikely and brave work he has done over the last two years. It's not easy to take over a fashion house that has a strong imprint and give it your own flair.'
And young fashion designer Meryll Rogge received the Emerging Talent of the Year award because of her aesthetic and challenging way of working. The jury's decision was unanimous: 'It's been a long time since we've seen such a success story for someone so young. Not only does she already have a distinct style, she continues to challenge herself.' In addition to a €5,000 prize, the Fashion & Lace Museum of Brussels is purchasing a silhouette of her for their permanent collection.
Belgian art director, stylist and photographer Benoit Bethume was awarded the Professional of the Year prize. 'In addition to his creative contribution, he is one of the rare critical voices in the fashion industry,' the jury said. After graduating from La Cambre Mode(s), he took a step back from pure creation to focus on image and brand identity. He became the editor of several magazines and took a leading role as consultant for Belgian and international companies such as Christian Wijnants, Tim van Steenbergen, L’Oreal, Lacoste, Longchamp, Cartier, Prada, Kenzo, Véronique Leroy, Nina Ricci, Petit Bateau, Carven and Guillaume Henry. Bethume also collaborates on several projects with Marine Serre. Their latest joint venture is the film Amor Fati, about existentialism in the way we manage our feelings in daily life.
A Changemaker from the fashion industry will also be celebrated for the first time. This category was created to give a voice to someone who influences the industry in an innovative way. This honour was given to Cédric Vanhoeck from Resortecs, our MAD Atelier resident. The young Brussels-based company looks to contribute to a world in need of innovative solutions. They do this by taking an industrial approach to the recycling process, which includes the development of a high-tech easy-to-recycle yarn. Congratulations to the entire Resortecs team!
The Liège fashion brand Imprévu, founded by Justine God in 2016, walked away with the Audience Award for Fashion Brand of the Year. Imprévu makes women’s fashion that is ethical as well as aesthetic, with a young, dynamic look. If you want to buy something, be quick about it: in order to prevent overproduction, a new limited edition collection is launched every month.
Lili Schreiber, who received her master's degree from the Brussels institute La Cambre earlier this year, is awarded the prize for Most Promising Graduate. The young designer started her collection with an imaginary museum of artists she loves, who inspire her: Lynnette Yiadom Boyakje, Amy Sherald, Emma Amos, Meret Oppenheim and Claude Cahun. They juggle their identities (be it race, gender or other). They break the codes and impose their look, diverting, transforming, imagining and questioning. The pieces of the collection are modular, in the sense that each of them can be worn in a different way, to be decided by the wearer. The men’s trousers become a skirt, the oversized men’s shirt becomes a jacket, two shirts are paired to form a bomber jacket, cuts and materials enter into a dialogue. Lili Schreiber emphasises the inclusiveness – pieces called feminine go into dialogue with pieces of the male wardrobe.
The Belgian Fashion Awards have been organised annually since 2017 by the organisations Flanders DC, MAD Brussels, Wallonia-Brussels Design Mode (WBDM), and the magazines Knack Weekend and Le Vif Weekend. These awards were created to highlight the reputation, creativity, and diversity of Belgian fashion both at home and abroad. We also want to pay attention here to those who work behind the scenes and provide a stage for lesser-known names and new talent. Annually, the awards are a stimulus to celebrate Belgian fashion, meet each other, and deepen ties across the creative sector. Besides being surreal, modest, industrious, avant-garde, and no-nonsense, the organisers show that Belgian fashion also stands for independence, personality, and sustainability. At the Belgian Fashion Awards, we give a voice to the Belgian fashion industry, which is usually humble. www.belgianfashionwards.be