Celebrating 15 Years of Belgian Fashion

explore Fashion Museum Antwerp's groundbreaking exhibitions

By MoMu - Fashion Museum Antwerp

'Jerwood. Free & Framed', Installation view © Tim StoopsMoMu - Fashion Museum Antwerp

15 Years, 30 Exhibitions

In the past 15 years, MoMu has hosted 30 exhibitions of contemporary and historic fashion. These exhibitions either tell a designer’s story or focus on a particular material or theme, portraying the designer’s sources of inspiration, connections to other art disciplines, as well as examining the social and cultural relevance of the objects. 

'Happy Birthday Dear Academie' Installation view © Boy KortekaasMoMu - Fashion Museum Antwerp

New commissions and multimedia productions bring the exhibitions alive, together with fresh approaches to scenography. MoMu currently presents new exhibitions biannually. In 2020, we plan to open a new exhibition space, dedicated to displaying objects from both our historic and contemporary permanent collections.

Please join us in celebrating MoMu’s past and present fashion exhibitions through the Museum's wonderful collection of exhibition posters.

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This exhibition focused on a first selection of objects from MoMu’s extensive collection, highlighting objects from both the contemporary and historic collections. The concept of the collections ‘depot’ as the treasury of every museum served as the point of departure, and the spectator experienced a behind-the-scenes view of the museum, the collection, and their inner workings. BACKSTAGE hinted to the future of the newly-opened MoMu, and its exhibition practices.

Curated by Kaat Debo, Linda Loppa, and Bob Verhelst

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Both the acquisition and exhibition policies of fashion museums focus on the final product – the apparel itself. The pattern is seldom shown, let alone purchased or collected. This exhibition moved beyond the pattern as a research object, and set out to celebrate and showcase both the technical side of fashion production as well as the final product. PATTERNS engaged its viewers with the artistic, cultural, and philosophical aspects of patternmaking as a craft, and the pattern as an object.

Curated by Kaat Debo and Linda Loppa

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‘Arte e Lusso della Seta a Genova dal “500” al “700”’, an exhibition in Genoa (2000-2001) provided the starting point for this exhibition. ‘Arte e Lusso’ explored Italian silk weaving and the use inside Italy from the 16th century until the 18th. As a follow-up, MoMu’s GENOVANVERSAEVICEVERSA created a visual bridge between the two port cities, Antwerp and Genoa, both of which experienced a strong cultural boom in the 17th century during the transition from Renaissance to Baroque.

Curated by Angelo Figus and Kaat Debo

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This exhibition provided an overview of the influence Greek sculpture, clothing, and drapery from the classical era held for fashion in the 20th and 21st centuries. It paid special attention to the Greek-inspired collections of Spring/Summer 2004. GODDESS was based on the exhibition ‘GODDESS, The Classical Mode’ at The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. MoMu partly incorporated this exhibition.

Curated by Harold Koda

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This exhibition played with how fashion and dress relate to their historic origin and cultural past. Judith Clark, curator of the exhibition and an architect by training, took a personal look at the relationship between contemporary fashion and its history, noting the echoes across history that fashion makes.

In 2005 the exhibition traveled to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London under the title 'Specters. When fashion turns back '

Curated by Judith Clark

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This exhibition took desire as a point of departure, and examined the ways in which two distinct cultural conceptions, the African and the Western, influence one another and adopt each other’s visual idiom. When two cultures meet, how does what appears on the surface become meaningful? How are attitudes – rather than identities – constructed?

Curated by Kaat Debo

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MoMu invited A.F.Vandevorst to create an exhibition within the context of Europalia Russia. In 'Katharina Prospekt', designers An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx show us their vision of Russia, and its aesthetic language in the universe of A.F.Vandevorst. This included the colour red as well as military uniforms, and religious costumes carefully selected by Vandevorst and Arickx from the collection of the State Historical Museum of Moscow. In terms of materials, A.F.Vandevorst included leather, fur, and felt, materials that are, indeed, important sources of inspiration in their own collections of clothing.

Curated by A.F.Vandevorst and Kaat Debo

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This exhibition, celebrating Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, was the last in a trilogy of international exhibitions. The two previous exhibitions, also 2006, were held in Florence, Italy (CORRESPONDENCES_YOHJI YAMAMOTO - Pitti Immagine Uomo) and Paris, France (JUSTE DES VÊTEMENTS - Musée de la Mode et du Textile). DREAMSHOP included more than 80 silhouettes from the 1980s to the present, with a literal ‘Shop’ display that invited viewers to engage directly with Yamamoto’s designs, allowing the guests to manipulate the fabrics and try on the garments themselves.

Curated by Kaat Debo and Linda Loppa

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Building on the success of BACKSTAGE: Selectie I in 2002, MoMu once again highlighted its own collection in THE MOMU COLLECTION: Selectie II. This exhibition drew from several different archives held in MoMu's collection, displaying objects including hats, corsages and corsets, lingerie, and regional costumes, as well as recent donations and acquisitions.

Curated by Kaat Debo

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6+. Antwerp Fashion
De Loketten, Brussels

6+, referring to ‘The Antwerp Six’, described the international success story of Antwerp fashion. ‘The Six’ – Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee – have been well-known in the world of fashion since the beginning of the 1980s. The exhibition placed Antwerp fashion, and the designers schooled there, in a wider historic and artistic context. The plus sign in the title refered to Martin Margiela on one hand, because he is often bracketed together with ‘The Six’, and on the other in reference to the next generation of designers who have always added new aspects to the Antwerp identity.

Curated by Geert Bruloot and Kaat Debo

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Born in 1972 in Ulm, Germany, designer Bernhard Willhelm graduated from the Fashion Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Antwerp) in 1998. In 2006, Bernhard Willhelm and design partner Jutta Kraus donated their entire clothing archive to MoMu. This donation led directly to our exceptional, retrospective exhibition.

Curated by Bernhard Willhelm, Jutta Kraus, and Kaat Debo

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In this first retrospective exhibition, Veronique Branquinho provides a look inside her ambiguous, suggestive world. Branquinho's work shows duality on different levels, both in her imaging or women, and in her use and combinations of materials. In Branquinho’s creations, women come across as simultaneously innocent and erotic, playful and severe, mysterious and always complex. In the construction of her silhouettes, Branquinho enjoys playing with a mixture of elements from male and female wardrobes, both in terms of tailoring and in terms of material.

Curated by Blitz and Kaat Debo

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MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA '20' was not a retrospective exhibit in the classical 'overview' tradition. Rather, ‘20’ looked deeper into many of the themes and concepts Maison Martin Margiela brought to the stage during its first twenty years. This included Margiela’s iconic and playful interpretations of shoulders, tailoring, and gender in the Maison’s different collections, shows, installations, and events worldwide. The exhibition also noted Margiela’s attention to style beyond the runway, exploring the decoration of the shops and offices, as well as the eccentricities of the house’s style, communication policy, and Margiela’s desire for personal anonymity.

Curated by Kaat Debo

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Paper has long been used as a fashion textile in various cultures and historical periods. And yet, despite this prominence, it is still a little known, and little studied, phenomenon. With the exhibition PAPER FASHION, the Fashion Museum – in collaboration with Atopos Cultural Organization, Athens – revealed this exceptional niche in the history of fashion. Beginning with a unique collection of 1960s paper dresses from the Atopos collection, PAPER FASHION focused on the use of paper and related materials in modern and contemporary fashion.

Curated by Vassilis Zidianakis and Kaat Debo

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In its 180 years Delvaux’s minimalist, chic designs have met the needs of a clientele living through times of dramatic change and movement. This exhibition provided an exclusive look into Delvaux’s history, from the manufacture of travel goods for local nobility in the 19th century to the rise of the modern handbag in the 20th, as well as the company's current vision of elegance under its artistic director Veronique Branquinho (herself the subject of a MoMu exhibition the previous year).

Curated by Hettie Judah and Kaat Debo

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This exhibition explored the importance of black to fashion from both a contemporary and historic perspective. Juxtaposing portraiture from 17th century Flemish Masters like Anthony Van Dyck with contemporary silhouettes from designers like Raf Simons – all featuring black garments – MoMu unpacked black’s enduring influence with a carefully curated selection of Belgian and international contemporary designers, all with a special connection to black.

Curated by Karen Van Godtsenhoven, Wim Mertens, and Kaat Debo

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This exhibition celebrated the 30th anniversary of British milliner Stephen Jones’s House: Stephen Jones Millinery. Jones’s work has crowned runways across the globe, with his hats featuring in the collections of Jean Paul Gaultier, Comme des Garçons, John Galliano, Christian Dior, Walter Van Beirendonck, Marc Jacobs, and more. Along with these numerous collaborations, the exhibition also looked more closely at Jones’s work in film, music, and photography. It noted his early years in London with the New Romantics, his unique relationship with fashion icon Anna Piaggi, his design process, and his inspirations. MoMu houses the largest collection of Stephen Jones hats outside of Britain, with more than 120 items, thanks to a long-term loan by Antwerp private collectors Geert Bruloot and Eddy Michiels.

Curated by Kaat Debo and Geert Bruloot

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In UNRAVEL, MoMu presented an exhibition about a material that familiar to all of us, regardless of personal style: knitwear. This exhibition challenged the established ideas of knitwear as an old-fashioned textile, demonstrating that knitwear is far from dowdy. This exhibition proves how and why knitwear is a continuing source of inspiration for high-end fashion, and a staple of the everyday wardrobe.

Curated by Karen Van Godtsenhoven and Emmanuelle Dirix

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This deeply personal retrospective investigated Walter Van Beirendonck’s world and the sources of his inspiration. The exhibition centred on six focal themes: Fairytales, Alien Spirits, Technocrafts, Alterations, Rituals, and Actions/Reactions. These themes were incorporated in Walter’s Wonderwall, a 60-meter long collage of images, slogans, objects and videos that serve as a public analogy to his own workbooks/creative practice. The Wonderwall included materials borrowed from ethnography and the fine arts, which were interspersed with videos of Van Beirendonck’s own fashion shows, as well as objects from his personal toy collection.

Curated by Kaat Debo

Expo Website:

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This exhibition focused on the influence of fashion on the everyday lives of middle-class women in Western Europe between 1750 and 1950, serving as a reminder of the importance of glancing backwards through fashion history, and the powerful commentary that past innovations made in their own time. With the foundation of historical silhouettes from the extensive apparel collection of Jacoba de Jonge, MoMu sketched a picture of the relationship between the fashion ideals of the day and the clothing that people were actually wearing.

Curated by Jacoba de Jonge, Frieda Sorber, Wim Mertens, and Karen Van Godtsenhoven

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This exhibition celebrated the impact and importance of Madame Grès’s sculptural designs and masterful drapery, bringing together silhouettes from the Galliera collection, as well as from private collections. In addition to a diverse showing of apparel and drawings by Madame Grès, MoMu also displayed a selection of contemporary designers inspired by her oeuvre, or who have devoted specific collections in homage to her famous pleating and iconic draping techniques: all tributes to her unparalleled modernity.

Curated by Curated by Olivier Saillard, Karen Van Godtsenhoven, and Kaat Debo

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Silks and Prints presented the story of both the Abraham Company and European couture, art, and luxury throughout the 20th century. The carefully selected pieces from Abraham’s archive showcased the impact of colour on couture’s landscape, as the exhibition focused on the Abraham firm’s colourful textiles as used in couture silhouettes from designers including Dior, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga. As a nod to Abraham’s enduring influence, contemporary designers including Dries Van Noten, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Peter Pilotto were invited to experiment with Abraham prints.

Curated by Sigrid Pallmert

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In this exhibition MoMu commemorated the Antwerp Fashion Department’s 50 year commitment to excellence in design education and highlighted the specific curriculum of the department, its education and evaluation method, and the importance of the fashion graphics. HAPPY BIRTHDAY displayed work selected from several generations of students, celebrating their careers alongside that of their alma mater. The exhibition also marked the friendship and rise of the Antwerp Six and Martin Margiela, featuring the final work of some of the Royal Academy’s most remarkable alumni.

Curated by Walter Van Beirendonck, Geert Bruloot, and Karen Van Godtsenhoven

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BIRDS OF PARADISE paid tribute to the elegance and refinement that feathers have lent to countless garments and accessories, as well as their uses and impacts across design aesthetics in the fashion industry. The exhibition addressed plumes and feathers as descriptors of refinement, luxury, freedom, modernism, femininity, and lightness, while also gesturing at heavier themes like the loss of innocence and dark romance.

Curated by Karen Van Godtsenhoven

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MoMu's collection consists of approximately 25,000 objects, mainly clothing and accessories. 7,000 of these items have been added since 2009, thanks to new purchases, donations, and long-term loans. In addition to collecting a rich cross-section of historic pieces, MoMu’s acquisition policy primarily focuses on purchasing pieces by contemporary Belgian designers and graduates of the Antwerp Fashion Department, whose silhouettes exemplify excellent craftsmanship, bold concepts, and avant-garde shapes. All these elements were central themes of MoMu Now – and continue to drive MoMu’s collection and display practices today.

Curated by Karen Van Godtsenhoven

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While stressing the influences, analogies, and contradictions in Dries Van Noten’s work, this exhibition - Van Noten’s first retrospective - combined fashion design with the world of decorative and fine arts, in order to illustrate the Belgian designer’s distinctive techniques and stylistic vocabulary. Van Noten selected anonymous 19th century pieces and works by emblematic couturiers such as Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior, carefully juxtaposing fashion and visual art to evoke intimate subject matters such as youth, the archetype, ambiguity, and passion while highlighting his ‘signature’ themes.

Curated by Dries Van Noten and Les Art Décoratifs, Paris

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FOOTPRINT led spectators on a journey through the history of shoes – and their role in fashion – promising to be a true revelation for both shoe lovers and fashion aficionados alike. Running the gamut from otherworldly, contemporary designs from Iris Van Herpen and Noritaka Tatehana to 19th century carved wooden clogs, this show highlighted the innovative and bold approaches to shoe design across centuries, while investigating each object’s social and cultural impacts. This exhibition displayed MoMu's shoe collection, a long-term loan from collectors Geert Bruloot and Eddy Michiels, supplemented with over 400 unique items from the archives of designers, collectors, and international museums.

Curated by Geert Bruloot

Game Changers by Paul Boudens [graphic design] | Mark Segal [photo]MoMu - Fashion Museum Antwerp


Cristóbal Balenciaga’s innovations in the middle of the 20th century created a radically new silhouette, where the body gained freedom of movement, simultaneously with architectural volumes that created a new concept of designing space around the body. With Japanese stylistic influences, such as the kimono, Balenciaga and his early 20th century contemporaries sought to liberate women from their tight corsets.

Curated by Karen Van Godtsenhoven and Miren Arzalluz

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This exhibition is a partnership between MoMu – Fashion Museum Antwerp and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Rik Wouters death (1916). Rik Wouters was the only Flemish artist to combine Post-Impressionist painting techniques with simple domestic scenes. Wouters had his fair share of difficulties in life, yet the harmonious ‘good life’ takes centre stage in his art, with the love for his wife Nel a motivating force in his work. In this exhibition, we explored the contemporary revival in interest to seek domestic intimacy and contact with nature, the ‘slow’ movement, and renewed attention for traditional techniques, like ceramics, weaving and dyeing by displaying Wouter’s work alongside contemporary Belgian art and fashion design.

Curated by Karen Van Godtsenhoven and Hedwig Todts

ModeNatie Atrium © Sonja De WolfMoMu - Fashion Museum Antwerp

2017 Programme

MoMu has several exciting exhibitions opening in 2017, celebrating some of Antwerp's best and most beloved avant-garde fashion

Margiela. The Hermès Years (2017) by Martin Margiela and Henri d’OrignyMoMu - Fashion Museum Antwerp


Martin Margiela's collaboration with the French house of Hermès is the starting point for this exhibition. From 1997 to 2003 he was responsible for their women's ready-to-wear collections. For Hermès, Margiela developed a vision in which the woman is central, not an ideal image of eternal youth, but a real, natural and mature woman. For this, he developed a gradually evolving wardrobe with comfort, utmost quality and timelessness as its basic elements. Hij presenteerde zijn collecties over vrouwen van verschillende leeftijdsgroepen, en zijn mode werd geharmoniseerd met de drager in plaats van gedwongen te worden op haar lichaam. This exhibition also looks more deeply into his own label, Maison Martin Margiela. Margiela's overall oeuvre is shaped from his great knowledge and deep respect for the past, and his exceptional love for tailoring. Tradition, quality, craftsmanship and creation are the foundations of a vision that are not only then, but still today offer an example in a fashion system increasingly under pressure.

Curated by Kaat Debo

Nicole & Hugo. Swinging Ann Salens (2017) by Ann SalensMoMu - Fashion Museum Antwerp

Nicole & Hugo. Swinging Ann Salens

Long before the Antwerp 6, Ann Salens was the first fashion designer in Belgium to be known for her unique designs, created in a twilight zone between art and fashion. Salens's unique crochet designs demonstrated an intriguing interplay of colours, and were shown in untraditional fashion show similar to 'happenings'. She became known to a wide audience thanks to singer Ann Christy, who always wore her dresses on stage. After Christy's death in 1984, Nicole & Hugo picked up where she left off. Salens’s creations became a permanent fixture of their shows. The long garments, with the dancing fringes, moved with them with astonishing results. The embroidery on Hugo’s shirts was always an intentional reflection of the colour graduations in Nicole’s dresses, and Salens also designed several matching crocheted trouser suits especially for Hugo. Nicole & Hugo announced their retirement in 2015.

Curated by Elisa De Wyngaert

Credits: Story

Thanks to the many photographers who have allowed us to use their images:
Stany Dederen and Boy Kortekaas (MoMu scenography photoshoots)
Tim Stoops
Sonja De Wolf

Special thanks to graphic designer Paul Boudens who made our fantastic exhibition posters and this exhibit possible

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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