Antwerp, laboratory of fashion
Antwerp’s success as a fashion capital is built on three key elements: a top-ranked Master's programme in fashion, a renowned fashion museum and the creative and innovative spirit of its fashion entrepreneurs. All keep track of the latest developments and challenges in the fashion industry. The City of Antwerp aims to stimulate and support fashion designers and entrepreneurs, as its reputation as an international fashion capital relies on their efforts.
Antwerp is a popular retail destination for tourists and fashionistas thanks to its many dedicated fashion entrepreneurs and plentiful flagship designer stores. The diversity of the city’s fashion scene is reflected in its shopping selection, all handily accessible on foot. Antwerp offers trendy boutiques with elegant pieces, small and independent shops and concept stores, with something to fit every taste.
Influential Master in Fashion
The Master in Fashion at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts has won global renown, putting Antwerp solidly on the international fashion map. In 2022, CEOWORLD Magazine ranked the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp as 15th among the world’s best fashion schools and 9th for Europe and the UK.
This year marks the 360th anniversary of the Academy of Fine Arts and the 60th anniversary of its fashion department. It was headed by Mary Prijot from 1963 to 1983. She was succeeded by Linda Loppa, who worked hard to promote the Fashion Department among journalists and designers. Walter Van Beirendonck took over in 2006. In 2022, Brandon Wen, an Academy graduate himself, succeeded Van Beirendonck and became the new creative director.
Antwerp’s Master in Fashion is considered one of the most influential fashion degrees. The success story of the ‘Antwerp Six’ - Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee - continues to inspire many ambitious creatives to enrol. In 2026, it will have been fifty years. Meanwhile, alumni Martin Margiela, Veronique Branquinho, Kris Van Assche, A.F. Vandevorst, Bruno Pieters, Christian Wijnants, Tim Van Steenbergen, Haider Ackermann, Cedric Jacquemyn, Jan-Jan Van Essche and Igor Dieryck have followed in the footsteps of the Antwerp Six to create their own unique collections. All these outstanding creative talents thrive on the fundamentals of design, ensuring that Antwerp remains at the cutting edge of fashion and continues to attract students from all over the world.
If you weren’t yet aware of these less well-known graduates who are currently pushing the boundaries of creativity and fashion, you should definitely look up Mariel Manuel, Minju Kim, Elise Getliffe, Manon Kundig and Susan Gasanov. The ‘20 to watch’ list also includes alumni Amber Dewaele, Charlotte De Geyter, Deborah Bloemen, Marc Pengel, Marijke De Cock, Marie Martens, Yanze Jin, Florentina Leitner and Yanis Berrewaerts.
Every year, a hundred or so talented students from 40 different countries begin their education at the Academy. Up to 20% of them graduate with a Master’s degree each year, presenting their master collections during a fashion show which has become an annual Antwerp highlight.
The programme focuses on creativity, respect for craftsmanship, a healthy, critical view of fashion and talent for innovation. Many Academy graduates have gained fame for their designs. They promote their academic roots and keep Antwerp on the international fashion map by establishing collections or joining eminent fashion houses around the globe, for example Demna creative director at Balenciaga, Glenn Martens, who is creative director at Diesel and also has his own Y/project collection, or Raf Simons, who learnt the tricks of the trade at Walter Van Beirendonck and is now co-creative director at Prada.
is in the TOP 7 best museums
best fashion schools in the world: Royal Academy of Fine Arts
© Matthias De Boeck
World-famous fashion museum
The Academy’s fashion department perches on top of MoMu, Antwerp’s Fashion Museum. This museum is headed by Kaat Debo and enjoys an enduring international reputation. Recently renovated and expanded, it is a meeting point for everyone interested in exploring fashion. Its collection comprises a large and important selection of clothing, accessories and fabrics, with a special focus on Belgian designers and Academy alumni. Temporary exhibitions immerse you in the worlds of certain designers or fashion themes. Each exposition impresses with its scenography.
MoMu’s reputation is well-deserved, earning it a spot among the top 7 fashion museums in the world.
MoMu Fashion Walk
Antwerp is one of the world’s leading fashion capitals today. This fame has its origins in the talented and iconic ‘Antwerp Six’, who rose to the top of the international fashion world in the 1980s, paving the way for subsequent generations.
Take a guided walk through the city and discover the places that helped to shape Antwerp’s fashion scene.
Fashion entrepreneurs inspire each other in a pocket-sized city
The final element is the creativity and innovative spirit of the fashion entrepreneurs who trained in Antwerp or were attracted to and settled in the city. There is an abundance of creative talent. People meet and inspire each other in an ever-increasing ecosystem. Fashion designers grasp opportunities for cross-fertilisation with other creative entrepreneurs in production, photography, film, make-up, music, galleries or costume design. Antwerp is an experimental fashion hothouse.
Antwerp makes it possible for fashion designers to achieve their ambitions. The city is large enough to offer them what they need to achieve international success, with skilled professionals, suitable networks, infrastructure and supporting organisations, while still being small enough for people to care about and know each other, to offer easy access to everything and foster innovation.
The city facilitates fashion designers’ ambitions by working closely with Flanders DC. On top of its regular programme, Flanders DC provides additional support to the Antwerp fashion industry. This includes initiatives such as a mentorship network for starting fashion entrepreneurs, annual coaching opportunities and monthly workshops on growth in the fashion business. Flanders DC also inspires and stimulates collaboration in the fashion industry through the organisation of Fashion Talks, Belgium’s main fashion industry conference, in Antwerp, and investigates the viability of other fashion events in the city. Additionally, Flanders DC also promotes young Antwerp designers internationally by introducing them via its own network.
In partnership with Start it @ Accelerate, the city also supports successful fashion startups with innovative entrepreneurial ideas through an acceleration programme that offers a year of access to mentors, an extensive network, workshops and free co-working spaces.
Antwerp's vision and action plan
In 2021, Antwerp launched a new vision that looks ahead up to 2030. It wants to encourage fashion entrepreneurs to develop projects and programmes together, with a focus on innovation, sustainability, local production, fashion tech and digitalization.
The city has launched a 2022-2025 action plan to promote the uniqueness of ‘Antwerp fashion’ and its designers. The city aims to support fashion entrepreneurs through incentives, business opportunities and coaching, to stimulate cross-fertilization through collabs between creatives and to strengthen Antwerp’s fashion ecosystem as a whole.
New fashion: constantly emerging
Antwerp has a great appetite for innovation in fashion. Sustainability is increasingly important and local manufacturing is gaining ground again. Digitalisation is accelerating and designers are experimenting in the metaverse. More than ever, the city is an incubator for experimental fashion and a fantastic laboratory for ground-breaking fashion entrepreneurs.
In the competitive world of fashion, innovation and differentiation are key. ‘Antwerp fashion’ is never standard. Time and again, Antwerp’s latest creations catch the world’s eye. Quirkiness unites the city’s entrepreneurs, who are committed to innovation, change and growth. It’s no wonder the latest fashions in the shops reflect the outspoken, diverse nature of Antwerp fashion.
The City of Antwerp supports innovation and entrepreneurship. This applies even more strongly to fashion designers, who are invited to submit their innovation-centred projects. To be eligible for financial support from the city to kickstart their innovation, projects must be undertaken in close collaboration with other creatives and beneficial to Antwerp’s fashion ecosystem.
More education within the fashion ecosystem
- Since 2012, the University of Antwerp has offered an annual Summer School in Fashion Management in collaboration with the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) in Paris). This 10-day course is intended for professionals and students who want to immerse themselves in the dynamics of the fashion industry. In Antwerp, the focus is on creative and independent design, while in Paris participants gain an understanding of the luxury industry. The course attracts creative designers, business students and professionals from diverse backgrounds, facilitating exciting cross-pollinations.
- The Master in International Fashion Management is a specialized master in global management, which addresses the fashion industry’s current business challenges from various perspectives: established versus emerging and global versus local markets, sustainability & ethics, technology & digitalization, entrepreneurship & innovation. Students acquire all the management knowledge and skills required to succeed in the highly competitive fashion industry.