PARIS — A.F. Vandevorst is going to Hollywood with the creation of an L.A.-based hub gathering Belgian creatives from across different disciplines, one of several new projects as they open a new chapter after 20 years in business.
Cofounders An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx tonight at the Yvon Lambert bookstore in the Marais district here will fête the launch of an anniversary tome. A retrospective of their work and inspirations, the photo-based book opens on the day they first met as students of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts and features texts by industry figures including Sally Singer, Stephen Jones and Walter Van Beirendonck.
Then on Thursday at 1 p.m., in L’Oratoire du Louvre, a Protestant chapel in the 1st arrondissement, the Belgian husband-and-wife duo, known for their mixes of deconstructed tailoring, military influences — including their signature red cross logo — and feminine lingerie inspirations, will present a 20th-anniversary show based on archive pieces reimagined into stories based on the codes of the house, with a total of 40 looks. A capsule collection of 10 T-shirts designed in collaboration with stylist B. Åkerlund will also feature.
The A.F. Vandevorst couture-week collection will not be commercialized, serving more as a creative showcase for what the brand stands for, the designers said.
Having recently wound down their ready-to-wear line, the commercial strategy for the independent Belgian designers, who over the past few seasons have been experimenting with different formats, is to focus on shoes and accessories as a key pillar of the business.
The duo last February also hired a new chief executive officer, Marie Mys, to allow them to focus on the creative part.
The plan is to present a capsule clothing collection alongside the footwear line, timed with the Paris ready-to-wear calendar and presented both in a physical showroom and on online showroom Ordre.com.
The year will see additional events and happenings, with details yet to be confirmed, while the 20th anniversary archive show will possibly travel to museums and institutions.
As for their L.A. ambitions, in terms of growing the visibility of the brand there, Spring London’s Phillip Bodenham is working with them on the collaborations and VIP strategy. Daniel Hettmann, who helmed the relaunch of Band of Outsiders as brand director, has also been brought onboard as a consultant. The pair only visited the city for the first time around a year ago, but fell in love with it.
“We love the high energy, but also how laid back it is; the climate is so nice, but the people work as well,” said Vandevorst. The goal, the duo said, is not necessarily to go up against the big guns at events like the Golden Globes, but instead to nurture a relationship with stylists looking to dress their clients for alternative events. “The red carpet is not really the thing that we do…. If we manage to find a beautiful dress that matches with a celebrity, of course it would be nice if she could wear it on the red carpet. But it’s not really our goal per se,” said Vandevorst.
The change in direction, the designers said, was motivated by a desire to revive the creative energy from when they first started out.
Notably, they were part of the Antwerp Six, though looking back, confessed Arickx, “we weren’t aware of the importance of what was happening.”
“When we started, there were the French and the Japanese, and suddenly everybody was looking at Belgium, the academy was creating fashion out of nothing,” he said. “And because social media didn’t exist yet, everybody [wanted to discover] the country. There was a lot of attention.”
“Then in the year 2000 we were flown to America by Vogue for an article on the designers of the new millennium, and we never realized in the moment how important it was,” echoed Vandevorst. “We were behaving like typical Belgians, like not glamorous and just work, work, work,” she added. “Of course it was cool. It’s not like were being snobby or anything, but the only thing we were worried about is that we had so much work to do and had to go back and finish the production of the collection.”