An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx met in 1987, at the fashion department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, becoming friends and partners. In 1998, they began a fashion label using a red cross as its logo. This referred to their shared passion for the aesthetics of old hospitals, which they had each developed independently as they grew up, and which would play a particularly important role in their second show, for Spring-Summer 1999. Their early collections immediately embraced the basic ingredients that would define their visual vocabulary for years to come: a fascination with German artist Joseph Beuys, religion, horses and equestrian equipment, uniforms, rivets, lingerie and fetish shoes. They discontinued the label in 2020.
VINTAGE HOSPITAL AESTHETICS
With their second catwalk show for Spring-Summer 1999, A.F.Vandevorst made an unforgettable impression on the international fashion press. The collection referred to an environment in which sleep, rest and recovery takes place, with such elements as pyjamas, blankets, white cotton, pleats and creases. The models lay supposedly sleeping in a series of vintage hospital beds arranged in a school, while fashion journalists were invited to sit at the heads and feet of each of the beds. The models eventually broke the quiet intimacy by standing up and walking through the dormitory space.
In terms of texture and tailoring, A.F.Vandevorst played with extremes. Draped and pleated skirts contrast with structured jackets and trench coats. Flowing, transparent materials soften more inflexible leather, felt and even paper, while delicate lace flows into rabbit fur or sheepskin.
MYSTERIOUS FEMALE IMAGE
Partial and total concealment of the face was a recurring factor, with fragile, mottled voiles, mouth veils inspired by Jainism, fetishist masks in silk or leather, oversized hats (in collaboration with Stephen Jones) and wigs. Make-up also played a role, invariably provided by Belgian make-up artist Inge Grognard.
ON THE SKIN
Lingerie played a decisive role in the A.F.Vandevorst signature. At their first catwalk show, for Autumn-Winter 1998-99, the designer duo had their models wearing delicate lingerie under military-inspired outfits, reinforcing a sense of femininity and sensuality. Their 2001 Spring-Summer collection was an ode to An Vandevorst’s exceptional fascination with vintage silk stockings. References to lingerie are a consistent thread throughout their collections. For Autumn-Winter 2006-07, they began a separate lingerie line, under the name of Nightfall.
Author: Romy Cockx
Photo above: Ann Vallé