It seems that in 2024 young fashion graduates matter more than ever. Is it because mainstream designer fashion has become dull, unadventurous, and rather predictable? Or are we always on the hunt for some fresh new blood? In a way, fashion students have never had as much visibility as they have today, which means expectations are higher and strategies tend to vary from one person to the next. Social media has also changed the game, and viral moments can create a buzz around someone’s work within a few minutes.

It was therefore fascinating to see how the Master Students of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp resisted the hype, focusing on collections where intricate garments stood for all the values we know -and love- within Belgian fashion, namely deconstruction, singularity, surrealism and of course humor, which for Brandon Wen -Creative Director of the Fashion Department- in an important part of what Antwerp fashion tends to embody. The best menswear collections were therefore a mix of pragmatism, technical skills, creativity and positivity. Our world is sinister enough, we do not need graduates to remind us of the bleakness we are witnessing outside.

Ji-Eun Lee’s collection was a standout, dealing with identity, uniforms, and what it feels like to try and belong when you feel like a lonely outsider. Entitled ‘You can sit with us’, her collection was touching and deeply autobiographical. Lee had moved from South Korea to New Zealand at the age of 16, finding solace and comfort within the school uniform, whose function is to conceal social differences. Her pieces were bold and vibrant, from a stunning cape duffel coat in bright orange wool to an oversized, colorful striped polo shirt dress, whose shape evoked 1950s Couture.

Mert Serbest’s collection beautifully explored key notions of heroism and body armor, which he interpreted in new and refreshing ways. Some of his pieces were monumental and impressive, especially his statement outerwear. Entitled ‘A Third Finger’, the collection referenced French philosopher Michel Foucault and his reading of the panopticon, used as a tool to exert social control. Serbest’s pieces felt defiant, unapologetic and fearless, which is exactly what you’d expect from a strong graduate collection.


More introverted and dystopian, Byeongho Lee’s inspiring collection was built around his memories of the street and market where his parents’ store was located. Referencing ‘Blade Runner 1987’, as well as cyberpunk and working- class clothes, his pieces felt genuine and grounded, while remaining slightly experimental. I loved his coats and felt pieces, which were rough but sophisticated at the same time.

Another designer I was very impressed with was Japanese graduate Yuhei Ueda. His collection actually felt like menswear, even though he had decided to present it on female models. Embracing spirituality, draping -and a subdued color palette- his gorgeous pieces were a perfect illustration of the ways minimalism can be warm, rich and inviting. Incredibly precise, and reassuringly luxurious, his pieces were made out of natural fibers, ranging from silk and cotton to wool and linen. It was exciting to see a graduate collection with such a range of proposals, while keeping a very tight commitment to quality and a peaceful silhouette. In times of turmoil and turbulence, it’s also great to come across someone whose work has a soothing message to offer.