In terms of so-called “fashion collectives,” there may be no more influential group than the Antwerp Six. The bastion of six Belgian designers who graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts between 1980 and 1981 have become synonymous with modern day fashion, and given the small European nation a stellar reputation in an industry typically dominated by the likes of more well-known Italian, French and Japanese designers.

Not only that, but the influences and aesthetics within the group of six are so wide-ranging that it’s a wonder they all came from the same country and studied at the same institution. Consider that the profound elegance of Dries van Noten, black-heavy palette of Ann Demeulemeester, eccentric patterns and colors of Walter van Beirendonck and deconstructed tailoring of honorary member Martin Margiela all call the Royal Academy of Fine Arts their alma mater and graduated within three years of one another, along with the likes of lesser-known, but still accomplished, Dirk van Saene and Marina Yee. Their initial breakthrough came when they showed at fashion week in London in 1987, sparking an interest in designers outside the usual cities.

The diverse styles and eventual global reputation of the group helped the institution recruit students from around the world, turning out the likes of Raf Simons, Haider Ackermann, Kris Van Assche and Demna Gvasalia in following years.

Here, we take a look at the fabled Antwerp Six collective, dissecting their lives, careers, and styles that made them part of such a unique piece of fashion history.

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Tags: antwerp-six, walter-van-beirendonck, ann-demeuelemeester, dirk-bikkembergs, dirk-van-saene, marina-yee, dries-van-noten, martin-margiela, master-class