The Design Search. © Maxime Ballesteros

The (design) search.

Guest feature by Sleek magazine, part I: In collaboration with Sleek, we are headed to London via Amsterdam and Antwerp in search of the freshest young design talent out there.

Revolution: design.

In another instalment of our collaboration, Sleek takes us on the road to meet six of the most exciting young graduate designers working to redefine fashion today.

From anarchy in Amsterdam and despair in Belgium’s artiest city, all the way to headwear that defies description in the East End, here is the new breed of creatives imagining what fashion fans will be wearing tomorrow.

The Design Search. © Maxime Ballesteros

Anne van den Boogaard: Designing anarchy in Amsterdam.

“I have this urge to say something through clothing,” says Anne van den Boogaard when we meet her in Westerdok, central Amsterdam. “That’s what got me into fashion: the need to share my views on our world and particularly my generation.”

The Design Search. © Maxime Ballesteros

Anne has just finished at the city’s fashion institute, and her graduate collection isn’t one that merely “says” something: instead it yells, shouts and screams.

The Design Search. © Maxime Ballesteros

“I love clichés.”

It is composed of rebellious cheerleader-meets-bride costumes, infused with tongue-in-cheek Nineties elements such as huge golden hoop earrings, alongside American sporting gear, and it is loud. Really, really loud. The collection is called “Infinity ‘n Shit”. “The collection started with my frustration with my generation. I find it a bit dull. Nobody takes risks, everybody is lazy. I want to pinch my generation with this collection. I want to kick their asses in a positive way.” The collection calls for “sweet anarchy”. Her t-shirts are covered with illustrations of angry, flame throwing cheerleaders and AC/DC-inspired lightning bolts to give off a rebellious vibe. “It’s all a bit clichéd but I love clichés,” she laughs.

Opposites attract each other.

“I wanted a lot of information within my collection. There is so much information nowadays, but I wanted to take this overload, put it together and make it work.” There’s so much going on in Anne’s visions, from pin-striped baseball jerseys, lace veils and pompom-embellished motorcycle jackets, that one wonders: how worried was she that the ironic nods to her generation were just that bit too much? “I was always laughing and often thought, ‘No, I can’t possibly do this!’ But my teachers loved it and pushed me to go all the way,” she says. “It was the last time I could go all out and I really felt that. I want to say something in a positive way. Say what you want to say but be kind to one another.”

The Design Search. © Maxime Ballesteros

The designer’s next stop is London where fashion might be more up her straat: rebellious, colourful and daring.

The Design Search. © Maxime Ballesteros

Merel van Glabbeek: Shame is nothing to be ashamed of.

We took a spin through the ’Dam in the GLK 250, and then met Merel van Glabbeek, whose scrapbook was filled with printed-out photographs as a guide to her collection. “I don’t think being shameless exists,” the 25-year-old graduate says. “It is in shame that we can unveil the most intimate aspects of our beings. It’s more beautiful when you can see inside a person, when you can see their shame. It makes them real. I always want to put reality into my work.” Merel is gentle, introverted and thoughtful, and five minutes in her company is enough to make you understand why the theme of shame possessed her so much that she spent half a year working with it through fashion. “The concept of shame was my starting point.”

Contrast of cloth and skin.

“That led me to research ancient Greek clothing that was used to idealise the body rather than conceal it.” The designer flips through her collection’s sketchbook where photos of Grecian sculptures fill the pages, showing women’s curves lavishly accentuated through the draping of their dresses. Coming from a very technical background with a completed seamstress degree (her mother was also a seamstress), Merel experimented with a range of techniques. “I experimented for weeks, letting the fabric go where it wanted to go and using different materials on voluptuous models.”

The Design Search. © Maxime Ballesteros

But just to follow an ancient draping technique would have been too simple. “I needed a modern feel to the collection. Shame is such a complicated concept that I needed a contrast.”

Pierre Renaux: Depression as a catalyst to design success.

When we got to Antwerp we discovered that life as a fashion graduate can be bliss. Yes, there is the stress of deadlines and competition, but you get to do what every designer wants: show off your designs on a catwalk in front of an audience. But what happens after you’ve received your diploma and reality kicks in? That question, or rather anxiety, took a hold of graduate Pierre Renaux when we met him in his central Antwerp flat, where the walls are festooned with his collection’s looks and inspiring photographs (including one of his friend’s bloodied arm). Pierre was interning at Thierry Mugler after his BA, before starting his MA at Antwerp’s renowned fashion school. “The school is like a little nest where you can do whatever you want without any consequences.”

The Design Search. © Maxime Ballesteros

Creative black future.

“Interning at Mugler, I learned that you do have to make compromises and that you do have to sell your creativity. I tried to take the anxiety from this realisation and turn it into something positive and creative.” Its roots lie in the classic elements of women’s business attire: pinstripes and pencil skirts. Strict, regular panels of white leather that make up halter tops and dresses symbolise the structure of the industry, while playful cutouts stand for Pierre’s imagination growing wild beyond those limits. The classic pencil skirt has been mutated as he used sheets of fake rubber glass (usually used for cinematic special effects) instead of fabric. “The glass skirt is completely destroyed now, but that is also part of the concept. It was supposed to crumble into nothingness. Just like me next year, probably. What will I do?”

The Design Search. © Maxime Ballesteros

It seems as though he thrives on the atmosphere of despair he has created for himself. “I like depression,” he says. “Only when it’s fun, though.”

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