Raf Simons, Supriya Lele and More Celebrate Antwerp’s MoMu Fashion Museum

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Raf SimonsPhotography by Hanna Moon, Styling by Agata Belcen, Creative direction by Isabella Burley

Ahead of its ambitious autumn programme, MoMu has enlisted Raf Simons, Marine Serre, Supriya Lele and more to take part in an inspiring billboard campaign

If you’re in Antwerp this August, make sure to look up at the billboards when you’re walking around. Photographed by South Korea-born, London-based photographer Hanna Moon, these blown-up images will feature designs by Walter Van Beirendonck, Raf Simons, Glenn Martens, Marine Serre, Rushemy Botter, and Supriya Lele. Titled Fashion/Conscious, the project is part of a citywide celebration of the fashion museum MoMu Antwerp, ahead of its reopening on 4 September. The institution, which is housed in the Modenatie building alongside Flanders District of Creativity and the Fashion Department of the Antwerp Academy, has recently undergone a 800 square-metre expansion and facelift spearheaded by the Belgian firm, B-architecten. Its collection of over 35,000 items include the largest collection of avant-garde Belgian fashion in the world. “Since the end of 1990s, we’ve been actively collecting Belgian fashion,” says MoMu’s director and chief curator Kaat Debo. “both of the first generation with the Antwerp Six and Martin Margiela, as well as the younger generations with designers such as Glenn Martens, Demna Gvasalia or Rushemy Botter.”

This campaign will do justice to the museum’s long-awaited return, which was slowed down due to the pandemic, in addition to teasing its inaugural exhibition, E/MOTION. Fashion Transition, which is opening in September. “The show explores the way in which fashion is an expression of emotion, fear and desire in society,” says Debo, adding that “fashion is both ‘emotional’ and ‘in motion,’” and that the exhibition will articulate designers’ impact on the events of the past three decades, “asking questions about how fashion can reinvent itself as an industry, as well as the role that designers can play in this in the future.”

In the meantime, the billboards will represent a reflection on the idea of the designer’s muse, with each of the participants chosing people that inspire them to star in the campaign. Supriya Lele, for example, selected hair stylist Cyndia Harvey, artist and writer Rhea Dillon, and her friend Jasmine Gaziza Müller to, “portray as the embodiment of inspiration and community,” she says. The London-based designer, who will also be in the upcoming exhibition, has never visited Antwerp, but says that “the subcultural and ground-breaking work that has come out of the city is unparalleled and has influenced not only myself but generations of emerging designers.” During her education, Lele remembers thinking “the city’s influential nature was impossible to not be drawn to.”

The campaign’s director, Isabella Burley, aimed to convey things we have missed since the pandemic began, such as hugging, kissing, or partying. “Visualising tactility,” was their major goal, according to Debo, while the concept of gradually dissolving flowers on the models’ faces was the Antwerp-based makeup artist Inge Grognard’s homage to nature as a rediscovered friend during the pandemic. “The flowers also refer to the inaugural exhibition’s idea of transition and transformation,” says Debo.

While energy of the pictures will undoubtedly spill onto the streets, a similar outburst of spirit will echo in E/MOTION. The museum’s collaboration with Antwerp’s Opera Ballet Vlaanderen will yield several performances throughout the course of the show. The collaboration stems from a search to challenge fashion display while emphasising the design’s human element. “Moreover, fashion exhibitions deploy mannequins to display clothes,” Debo adds. “The mannequin’s inherent lifelessness, however, forms an uncanny contrast with the dynamic nature of fashion.” Before the ballet dancers occupy the renovated MoMu, the muses will take over Antwerp streets with colourful attires and flowers over their faces, kissing, dancing, and hugging.