Belgians are internationally renowned for their modesty. Admirable though that characteristic may be, it is high time to blow our own trumpet and to show how proud we are of our country’s talent. With the brand-new Belgian Fashion Awards, Flanders DC, Le Vif & Knack Weekend and MAD want to put the Belgian fashion industry in the spotlight.
The winners of the first Belgian Fashion Awards
- The Jury prize. When you think of Belgian fashion, the first name that comes to mind is usually Dries Van Noten’s. 2017 was a big year for the designer, who celebrated his hundredth show in Paris. As icing on the cake, he published a book dedicated to these hundred shows. Van Noten has a solid international reputation, yet his talent is undeniably connected to Antwerp. The Jury prize of this very first edition of the Belgian Fashion Awards is the crowning achievement of an extraordinary year for Van Noten.
- The Designer of the year award is presented to a designer who wowed the jury with his work. This year, the honor fell to Raf Simons. As creative director of Calvin Klein, he succeeded in putting the label back on the map and making it one of the most-wanted in fashion again. As if that were not enough, he combines this undertaking with his own label, creating two entire worlds in the process.
- The Emerging talent of the year award goes to Façon Jacmin for their unique vision and approach. The twins have managed to come up with the denim wardrobe for women. They show creativity and originality in the way they take their timeless and versatile Japanese demin designs to the consumer market as well. Ségolène and Alexandra’s award comes with a €5.000 prize, generously offered by the organizers. The Fashion Museum Antwerp is planning to set up an installation dedicated to their collection, so you’ll soon be able to discover their work at the MoMu.
- The Professional of the year award acknowledges the work of a stylist, photographer, make-up/hair artist or model who had an exceptional year. Inge Grognard is this year’s winner. Having debuted with the Antwerp Six, this make-up artist perfectly complements all the major Belgian designers. For the past thirty years, her conceptual make-up has been setting trends, and she continues to inspire future generations. Earlier this year, Inge Grognard made Business of Fashion’s list of the 500 most influential people in fashion worldwide. A great honor, coming from a world authority on fashion.
- The Entrepreneur of the year award is presented to a Belgian fashion entrepreneur (or fashion label) who notched up successes this year. Komono’s Anton Janssens and Raf Maes went home with this award. Their watches and glasses, with their typical effortless look, are worn all over the world. Komono is sold in more than fifty countries and recently opened a second boutique in our Belgian capital (following the success of the Antwerp boutique which opened in September).
- The Fashion brand of the year award goes to a brand chosen by the public from a shortlist published on the Le Vif Weekend and Knack Weekend website. The jury shortlisted 24 brands that distinguished themselves this year, and more than 25.000 readers cast their vote. Belgian lingerie brand Marie Jo came out victorious.
- The award for Most promising graduate goes to a student who recently graduated (i.e. in June 2017) from one of our seven major Belgian fashion academies. Rushemy Botter of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp took the prize home. His menswear collection presented a fresh and modern fashion image that pays creative tribute to Curacao. In January, this young designer will show his collection in Paris for the second time. Rushemy Botter receives a €500 prize to spend on fabrics by The Fabric Sales.
The jury consisted of representatives from Flanders DC (Nathalie De Schepper and Ann Claes) and MAD (Elke Timmerman and Alexandra Lambert), fashion journalists (Anne-Françoise Moyson and Ellen De Wolf), the editors-in-chief of Le Vif Weekend and Knack Weekend (Delphine Kindermans and Ruth Goossens) as well as important voices in fashion (international buyers Pascaline Smets, Aude Gribomont and Geert Bruloot, The Fabric Sales and A/MG Suits founder Allison Mc Greal, international fashion editor Angelo Flaccavento and Elisa De Wyngaert (curator at the MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp)).
I Buy Belgian
According to a study by Creamoda, a stunning two out of three Belgians does not know a single Belgian fashion label.
Remarkably enough, almost half of the respondents do favor Belgian brands. Supporting the local economy and a preference for the quality offered by Belgian brands are the two main reasons given. In addition, the clear majority associates Belgian fashion with style, wearability and sustainability.
Giving more visibility to Belgian fashion, that’s what Flanders DC is all about. Having launched the 'I Buy Belgian' campaign in 2015, the organization does its utmost to promote local talent. Window stickers in retail stores and the hashtag #IbuyBelgian put Belgian fashion in the spotlight. Recently, they also kicked off the French part of the campaign with 'J'Achète Belge' (#jachetebelge), to make shoppers all over the country see the light.
Belgian fashion is internationally lauded for its professionalism, its avant-gardism and its unique vision. Flanders DC, Le Vif Weekend, Knack Weekend and MAD thought it was high time to celebrate the Belgian fashion industry in all its forms, introducing no less than seven awards to make that happen. The Belgian Fashion Awards are the first of its kind at this level. “Once a year, during the Belgian Fashion Awards, we want to let the whole world know how proud we are”, Flanders DC’s Nathalie De Schepper says.
It’s not a coincidence that there are seven awards to be presented. After all, Belgians do well in more than one aspect of fashion. “The fashion industry is situated at the crossroads between creativity and entrepreneurship. Every part of the sector deserves both public praise and the industry’s recognition”, according to Ann Claes (Flanders DC).
The fashion business can be tough. It takes a lot of hard work to come out on top.
Alexandra Lambert (MAD) agrees: “There are so many Belgians in this sector with a wonderful career, even though that’s not self-evident at all – think of the bumpy road that many fashion designers face today.”
Three cheers for Belgium
Belgian fashion talents are internationally celebrated and showered with prizes. So, what’s the point of adding Belgian awards to the pile? “The Belgian Fashion Awards are much appreciated by designers and people in the industry alike. If feels great to get recognition from your fellow compatriots”, says Ellen De Wolf, fashion editor at Knack Weekend.
“The big advantage of awards on a national level is the impact they have. And that’s exactly what the industry deserves. We devote two entire issues to Belgian fashion every year. We’re fortunate to have so much material to choose from – we even have to ‘kill our darlings’ when making a selection. Our country is filled to the brim with talented people, so it’s only natural to reward them”, she goes on to add.
Knack Weekend’s editor-in-chief Ruth Goossens is of the same mind: “There’s a lot of international appreciation of Belgian fashion, both in front of and behind the scenes. Yet while we have so many awards for different sectors – almost every magazine has its beauty award, not to mention the many prized bestowed on Belgian design – strangely enough, there was no equivalent for the fashion industry. Up till now, that is.
We wanted to put our national fashion industry on a pedestal – a big one.
We already publish a ‘Fashion, this is Belgian’ issue twice a year, so these awards are part of our DNA."
The idea of having Belgian Fashion Awards did not come out of thin air. “The topic had been on the table for quite some time. To see favorable reports about Belgian fashion in the international press is obviously flattering, but why not do something similar at home? We should not be too modest about our own fashion professionals”, Nathalie De Schepper explains.
Big in Belgium
“Flanders DC attached a lot of importance to having an award decided by public vote. It fits the idea of #IbuyBelgian to have consumers pick their own favorite Belgian brand. And, who knows, perhaps they discovered brands they didn’t know yet while browsing the list of nominees. It came as no surprise that lingerie brand Marie Jo was able to take the Fashion brand of the year award home. After all, which Belgian woman does not own a Marie Jo lingerie set? The label strikes exactly the right balance between Belgian craftsmanship and innovation.
The Entrepreneur of the year award, too, is very valuable to us.
People who are well-versed in the business side of fashion also deserve a round of applause.
Komono’s victory is well-deserved. In only a few years’ time, they’ve managed to establish a well-known business and to build strong brand image. Taking your entrepreneurship abroad requires a huge dose of persistence, but Komono did not shy away from the challenge. Though their roots lie in Belgium, it’s world domination they’re after. It is a pleasure to see how a democratic company is capable of scoring internationally as well”, says Nathalie De Schepper.
“Not all Belgians know that a successful brand like Komono is actually ‘homegrown’. What they’ve managed to accomplish deserves all the praise in the world”, according to Ellen De Wolf.
All jury members agree that the many professionals working behind the scenes also contribute massively to the impeccable reputation of Belgian fashion. “We wanted to acknowledge all those people who remain out of public view but are doing a terrific job. Someone like Inge Grognard, who won the Professional of the year award, has been putting her stamp on Belgian fashion since the emergence of the Antwerp Six. Her ability to translate the vision of the fashion designers she teams up with into her own work is unmatched”, Nathalie De Schepper argues.
The jury members not only wanted to reward fashion professionals but encourage consumers to buy local as well. Especially the young generation can count on the loyal support of the Belgian consumer.
“Check out local fashion talent. Show young Belgian designers your support. Awards in and of themselves do not boost sales, but this platform will create visibility and inspire the consumer. Research shows that Belgian consumers like to buy Belgian, so Belgian labels will certainly benefit from greater brand awareness – both to keep going and to attain more financial security.”
Hopefully, these fashion awards will help us put into words how proud we are of our fashion industry – and to show this pride in our shopping behavior as well. We need to shake off our mandatory modesty, at least once a year.