We find ourselves back in one of the most important cities when it comes to fashion and the true essence of it, far from the flashes and cameras and closer to the studios, the classrooms, and the core of the craft. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Antwerp welcomes us another year to their annual fashion show that exhibits the testaments of what their students are made of. Expecting greatness but still being surprised by the creations of the youth, the Academy demonstrates each year why their long-lasting legacy of fashion expertise remains unmatched and untouched.
Fashion can be approached in many ways. You can like it in a casual way; stay updated with the latest news and gossip without delving much into details, follow it more actively; taking interest in the moves and strategies within the industry, or you can love it with your heart; understating that it is an intrinsic part of the human experience and giving the attention that the ones that dedicate their lives to it deserve. Each fashion capital has a particular feeling and vibe to it; some are more flashy and showy, while others are more lowkey and nonchalant. Antwerp is the city that represents the third category that I mentioned at the beginning. The true care for the craft and the genuine interest in the creations and stories of the designers, artists, and creators is something that can be felt in every corner.
The Royal Academy is the heart where all of this creative energy is born, and it is such a powerful one that it has managed to surpass all frontiers and gift their alumni to the world, some of which have ended up reshaping the industry. The impact of this place is well understood and accurately reflected in the multitude that every year encounters themselves within the walls of the Waagnatie Hall to watch what the students created with their blood, sweat, and tears. The classes of the four years present their creations on the stage that resembles more a concert than a fashion show, but the main course is served at last, during the last hour of the three that the show lasts, and after the two breaks (one more than last year, shoutout to the organisation): the masters graduate collections.
Reasonably, this is meant to be a celebration, and it's treated like so by the assistants. Aside from the fashion lovers and curious, the crowd is filled with the students' friends and family, who cheer loudly whenever the name of their loved one is announced by a cinematic voice on the speakers while being flashed in bright red on the screen. This energy is the one that fashion should always be developed in: a supportive community that values the time and effort spent by the creators on their pieces and encourages and celebrates them. 
This year's promotion is made up of eighteen students, three more than last year, and trust, in fashion school, any increase in graduates, even if small, is very valuable. Before showcasing their collections on the runway, the usual Expo took place at the Royal Academy main building, the 1663 one (the Fashion Department is located on top of MoMu), where in different spaces like classrooms and halls, the installation that each student created and designed to showcase their collection in the best way possible could be visited by casuals, press, and jury, to whom they had to present and explain each aspect of the collection. 
The jury is in charge of assigning the multiple awards to those they consider fit, and among them we could find names such as Kiko Kostadinov, Dilara Fındıkoğlu, and Kris Van Assche. Not a member of the jury but involved with the Academy, not only for the obvious but also as the giver of one of the most important awards of the night, Dries Van Noten was also roaming around the school, analysing the details of the students work. 
The collections this year had the particularity of having a strong emotional aspect to their concepts. Last year, there was a big focus on the shape, the form, the volumes, and the technicalities of the craft, while this year, not putting aside any of this, the feelings and the life experiences of the students were translated into garments. Jinny Song’s concept and collection were striking for their intimacy with Mother’s Milk, an exploration of the love and emotions shared by mother and child with layering of fabrics to represent the outcome of the stacking of generational traumas and emotional baggage, or knittingwear made with a Korean traditional technique taught by her grandmother meant to represent the ties between three generations of women. 
With Broken Tooth Sofia Rodriguez Rodriguez explores the complex and very personal world of nightmares in her garments, with literal references like the tooth-shaped heels on her shoes and more nuanced ones like the pieces that look like they burst out of their seams meant to reflect how one feels when everything gets out of control. These pieces can be reattached back to normality, a very interesting functional approach to an otherwise strictly conceptual one. From restraint to complete freedom with Pommie Dierick’s Wild Horses Run Free, a visually stunning collection where an element as common as the stripes gets transformed not only graphically but also in volume and shape, with fabrics, patterns, and techniques changing the liimitative aspect of stripes and creating something unique and liberating.
Byeongho Lee created a reinterpretation of his neighbourhood through his eyes in Behind Pagoda, incorporating usual elements found on underdeveloped streets and market inhabitants, such as the rubber working boots, the technical aprons with plenty of pockets, and the waterproof fabrics, and elevating them with a futuristic approach with heavy references to Blade Runner 1987, very fitting for its context. Yuhei Ueda, with Still Life, created one of the most sensible collections of this year (and probably my favourite, if I must say so). As a canvas with predominantly white and cream fabrics, Yuhei attached every memory and experience he's ever had to his way of working, where finding the essence and core of everything is a goal. For this, using natural fabrics and applying techniques common to workwear, the soul of design and fashion is made manifest in a genuine, honest, and pure way.
All in all, what Brandon Wen, creative director of the Fashion Department, says in his editor letter in the annual 1+1=3 students magazine is a reflection of the spirit passed on from the Academy to the students, that the student later on passes onto us with their work. “We should all be making more noise and celebrating when there are beautiful and imaginative things. If you see something that inspires you, you should jump up and scream.” And for the students and the true fashion, we jump and scream.
Byeongho Lee
Jinny Song
Pommie Dierick
Sofia Rodriguez Rodriguez
Yuhei Ueda