The mounting reputation of Antwerp’s designers draws the interest of the fashion press to the city itself. Linda Loppa, now head of the Fashion Department at the Academy capitalised on the buzz surrounding the 6+ to bring increasingly prominent designers and fashion designers to Antwerp to act as part of the international graduation jury. This often results in offers of work for the most promising graduates. The shows become increasingly professional with astonishing final year presentation from designers that go on to rise rapidly to prominence during the era.
Veronique Branquinho’s collection demonstrates the impeccable tailoring and intelligent sex appeal that would go on to make name; An Vandevorst creates an emotionally charged presentation inspired by the artist Joseph Beuys, which culminates in thousands of white feathers tumbling from the ceiling; Jurgi Persoons sends out models in fetish-wear and gimp masks accessorised with fierce dogs on leather leashes.
Raf Simons, another influential Antwerp designer that emerges at this time studied industrial design rather than fashion, and starts his career as an intern with Walter Van Beirendonck. So prodigious is his talent and drive that Linda Loppa advises him not to study at the Academy but to launch his own label, which he does in 1995.
During the 1990s Walter Van Beirendonck becomes something of a household name (at least in club culture) through his accessibly priced W< label. With its bold graphics and colour schemes, outrageous shapes and experimental fabrics, W< (Wild & Lethal Trash) is a defining fashion brand of the 1990s. In 1997 Walter also designs the outrageous costumes for U2’s legendary PopMart tour.