“Belgian Fashion” took the fashion world by storm in 1980's. However prior to this, Belgian people wore clothes and we can even assume that some of them were fashionable. So there was fashion, but its difficult to ignore the impression that it could be anything but Belgian. “Belgian” simply never was an adjective to the word fashion.
Fashion conscious Belgians took their cues from Paris, London and Milan like the rest of the world. In the eighties the Belgian fashion took a remarkable start, and now, only two decades later Belgian fashion plays an important role in the international world of fashion.
The ITCP and The Golden Spindle
In 1981 the Minister of Economic Business, Willy Claes
developed the "Textielplan". It is aim was to support the textile
industry as much as possible. They gave financial help to weak companies
and make them less vulnerable from big designer companies abroad.
In 1982 the ITCB organised the first "Golden Spindle Contest". Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, Martin Margiela, Walter van Beirendonck, Marina Yee and Dries van Noten won numerous prizes. One year later the contest had already grown to a real fashion show with an international jury. Since that contest, Martin Margiela, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dries van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Van Saene and Dirk Bikkembergs are universally known as the Antwerp Six.
What 's in a name?
The question remains why they are called the Antwerp
Six. Actually it was the British press who coined the phrase. In 1986
the six Antwerp designers went to London for the first time to the British
Designer Show. They hired an enormous truck and stayed on a camp site.
The little money they had was entirely spent on publicity. Their designs
were extremely popular beyond all expectation. The British press was also
very enthusiastic, but they could not pronounce nor spell the names of
the Antwerp designers. So soon the first articles about “the Antwerp
six” appeared in the press. Moreover at that time there was a vogue
in the press for naming criminals the Moaist Gang of Four in China or
the Guildford Five accused of Irish terrorism. This has echoes of famous
children books dating from the fifties such as the Legendary Enid Blyton
'Famous Five' and 'Secret Seven' adventure series.