In the late 80’s, a group of Belgian designers, all graduates of the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts, showed up in London with a van packed full of their garments and more or less turned fashion on its head. They all practiced a deconstructionist approach to fashion - instead of embracing the glamorous designs that characterized the catwalks of the eighties, they stripped down the clothing they made and built it back up, often with reused materials, strange proportions, or raw, patch-worked edges and details. They celebrated collage - bricolage, really; meaning the creation of a new product or idea from diverse sources - both intellectual and material. It is indicative of their impact that the Antwerp Six - Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk van Saene, Dries van Noten, Walter van Beirendonck, Marina Yee, and Dirk Bikkemberks - remain celebrated and influential even thirty years on.
Stephan Schneider, although German, also graduated from the Academy in Antwerp alongside the next generation of Belgian designers, which includes Raf Simons and Veronique Branquinho.
The most impressive feature of Schneider’s work, aside from the luscious custom fabrics for which he has become known, is the restraint he exhibits. His clothing doesn’t look over-designed, but every aspect of the garments, from silhouette to fabric to the placement of the pockets, is carefully considered.
Schneider focuses on silhouette, as did the Antwerp Six, and his work also includes the occasional reference to deconstruction - an asymmetrical placket, a removable jacket liner or hood - but they are references, not dissertations. His clothing is as much a departure from the style of the generation that came before him as it is a natural evolution - there are no double-long sleeves or ragged seams. Schneider has not sought to copy his forerunners, but to contribute - as a designer and as a professor at the Berlin University of Arts - to Belgian and global design.
As Mr. Schneider said in my interviewwith him, he doesn’t just design “nice, simple garments.” His clothing may not scream as loudly as that of Antwerp Six, but every continuation, evolution, or deconstruction of prior design is necessarily violent. Schneider has both rejected and embraced the influence of his predecessors while building upon it, and he continues to bricoler (“tinker”) with his own designs and his inspirations. This tension, albeit quiet, is part of what makes Schneider’s work so intriguing.