The Belgians: An Unexpected Fashion Story

The Belgians: An Unexpected Fashion Story



It’s day three of the StyleZeitgeist book week, where we review the Fall books we think worth your attention.

The Belgians: An Unexpected Story

In case you missed the Belgian fashion exhibit, “The Belgians: An Unexpected Story,” at the BOZAR in Brussels earlier this year, you still have a chance to experience it through the eponymous catalog published by the German publisher Hatje Cantz ($60).

The 240-page book has over 300 illustrations (StyleZeitgeist test – there is one image in the book from one of our print volumes, see if you can find it) and several essays.

The book is broken down in sections that roughly follow those of the exhibit – Pioneers (those before the Antwerp Six), Avant-Garde (Antwerp Six), Laboratories (fashion studies), Vocabularies (devoted to storytelling and aesthetic language, which the Belgians excel at like no others), and so on.

If you are a connoisseur of Belgian fashion, you might be asking why we need another Belgian fashion exhibit and another Belgian fashion book.

The answer to the first part of the questions is that Brussels have long played second fiddle to Antwerp in terms of fashion and the exhibit was supposed to right this wrong. Whether it did, I don’t know, since I did not get to attend it.

Judging by the book, I doubt it succeeded, as most of the content is devoted to the prodigies that Antwerp has been producing in record numbers over the past few decades. Brussels has its own fashion department at La Cambre, but surprisingly, there is precious little in the book on its foremost prodigy, Olivier Theyskens.

As far as the book itself, yes, it is a worthy addition to your fashion library, even if you do not care to see another picture of Diane von Furstenberg in a wrap dress (or otherwise), ever.

There are plenty of photos in the book you have already seen, but some you probably have not. There is a neat section on the fashion ephemera, where the work of the graphic designer Paul Boudens is particularly satisfying (he also designed the book).

The book is a fine primer, and an updated one (it already mentions Vetements, the newest/hottest Antwerp export). Do I wish the book went deeper? Yes, but that would require a one thousand-page tome. This works very well for now.

All images courtesy of Hatje Cantz. Copyright Ronald Stoops and Patrick Robyn

About the author

Eugene Rabkin

Eugene Rabkin is the founder of He has contributed articles on fashion and culture to The Business of Fashion, Vogue Russia, Buro247, the Haaretz Daily Newspaper, and other publications. He has taught critical writing and fashion writing courses at Parsons the New School for Design.


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