Ten Minutes: With A.F. Vandevorst’s Filip Arickx, Ahead Of Their Selfridges Pop-Up
A.F. Vandevorst are celebrating 20 years of Belgian fashion greatness this week, taking up residency at the Selfridges Corner Shop as part of their ‘The Anatomy of Luxury’ project. For the next seven days, an iconic, classic A.F. Vandevorst installation is coming, a smaller recreation of their Spring/ Summer 1999 show with 13 hospital beds set up to fill the space. Our kind of hospital. Husband and wife, and founders of the brand, An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx will host a public book signing on Thursday night to celebrate the release of their new book ‘ENDE NEU.’ The brand’s collaboration with B. Åkerlund that commemorates 20 years in a whole lot of black and red crossed reigning t-shirts, will be available for purchase during the residency. We spoke to Filip Arickx about what the world of A.F. Vandevorst looks like, 20 years after its founding.
ROXY LOLA: Your pop up is happening today. Why did you decide to revive the iconic SS99 setting for the space?
FILIP ARICKX: It’s not exactly the same, of course. We will work with the same hospital beds, but in that 100 square metres space at Selfridges we will try to get as much of the DNA of A.F. Vandevorst from the last 20 years as possible. I think it’s a wonderful platform to get to show who we are to people who don’t know us yet, maybe. It’s important to show our aesthetics, which are very much related to hospital furniture, hospital atmosphere also with some gimmicks in it. I think it will reflect who we are and what we stand for.
RL: What does that hospital bed scene, or aesthetic, represent to you today in 2018? Has it changed since 1999?
FA: No, in a way it feels like it hasn’t changed, actually. It’s just a bit weird to see now that, for instance, this year it’s our 20 year anniversary and of course, the hospital always comes back, and now Gucci did the show with theirs. And people ask us, “what is the link, is it Gucci related?” I’m thinking, my god no! We do this.
RL: What did you think when you saw that Gucci show?
FA: I thought it was good. I wasn’t there, I only saw pictures and I liked the atmosphere and the ambience. What I saw was nice but their show had nothing to do with ours. For them it’s only one season. With ours, it’s our whole DNA. It’s a different approach.
RL: Yes, it began when you and An discovered you both collected Red Cross items – do you still collect them?
FA: Yes! We still collect them. There will be a small selection of that at Selfridges. It’s things we see ourselves but also when people go on holiday and see something with a red cross on it, people say, “guys we were there and we were thinking of you,” and it’s a nice connotation when we get a present like this, that people link of us. Almost each time we like it aesthetically, also.
RL: Will you have a soundtrack playing to the installation? What music best represents where you brand is at right now?
FA: We will have all the songs we found on Youtube and that we Shazam-ed from all the shows we did. It goes from Julio Iglesias to Nick Cave, because every collection has been developed coming from the heart, the stomach. It might have been related to something that happened that season or the travelling we did or the people we met or whatever. Everything is related, from music to aesthetics to design, related to what happens in our life.
RL: Where do you draw inspiration from today?
FA: The nice thing about getting more mature in our business after 20 years is we have a big pool of experience, a big pool of ideas, of things we’ve seen and heard. It’s always nice to fish in your own pool. I can’t say this season we will work around Africa, for instance. I think it’s weird to take it rationally.
RL: You’re just evolving?
FA: Yes. You gather and you gather and you gather. There’s always a sign of time. I remember that with Belgian designers, most of them are friends of ours and we never talk about fashion and then during fashion week we all had this idea to use mostly white. It was weird, we never talked about it but it’s always something in the air.
RL: What are you most proud of in the 20 years?
FA: I think the team with who we realised it.
RL: You once called it the A.F. Vandevorst ‘universe’… how has that universe changed?
FA: It’s become more open. In the beginning, you’re in your ivory tower. As I’ve said before, after 20 years you become more mature, we travel a bit more, we meet more people from all kinds of cultures and countries. The way you respect them is much more profound than it was before. Now you understand more when people have opinions and I think in that way our world became much more diverse.
RL: So in this new and improved universe, what is the A.F. Vandevorst woman like?
FA: She has a certain coolness. She’s quite open in every way, in her aesthetic, her way of thinking, of being in life. She travels, kind of a nomad. She mixes styles; things she gathered on holiday combined with things she bought or found or borrowed. She’s not snobbish. She’s quite arty.
RL: I wanted to ask… that final motorcycle look in your last couture show was fabulous and new for you. Definitely this woman’s uniform. Did you end up getting your motorcycle license?
FA: No! Not yet. We were supposed to do it, so it might be something for next summer. On the other hand I’m a very, very bad driver. It’s An who was with a motorcycle gang before, she used to drive from time to time but it was years ago. So we said it’s cool to do together to spend time together but I’m afraid I’m a bad driver and never going to use it. I’m already very bad with the car.
RL: Your book, which will be available at the pop-up, celebrates your 20 years. It’s titled ‘Ende Neu,’ which translates to ‘ending new’. What was behind your choice of name?
RL: The title is a song by the Einstürzende Neubauten. Blixa Bargeld is our muse. Blixa is also our company name, named after him. When we started 20 years ago we did it because we love his music and his performances. After word spread we met him and became friends. It was really nice to finally have a relationship. One of his songs Ende Neu, is the end of the word ‘Einstürzende’ and the start of ‘Neubauten’. It’s the song we used in the show in 2001. After 20 years we wanted to take things differently, to restructure our lives. Ende means end – we thought after 20 years there’s an end but there comes something new, which is the the Neu. So in that way that title was very important for us. First we asked Blixa if he agreed and at first he hesitated, saying it might be confusing for some people, but we said just wait until you see how it will be done and embroidered with the white on the white. Very subtle but very present.
RL: The pop up is titled the Anatomy Of Luxury – what would you say is the beating heart in the anatomy of luxury?
RL: What’s next?
FA: We’re going to travel with the book and do some book signings. We just did one in LA, one planned for Florence and one in New York during fashion week in September. And then through that I feel like there’s a lot of attention again on what we did in those 20 years. We released the smallest travelling store which is an installation of a hospital room that is welded together – the bed and pharmacy cabinet – and when you open it, it’s a store. It travels which makes it the smallest travelling store in the world. That’s getting a lot of attention now and it’s currently in Opening Ceremony in New York. There’s a lot of things that you just can re-edit. When we started some journalists now were maybe not even born yet, so it’s nice to show them the importance of being in the fashion industry. It’s not only about producing and creating and throwing away and bringing new products, it’s to show them an aesthetic which for us is very important and valuable in life.
RL: It’s celebrating everything you’ve achieved.
FA: Yes. We’re very proud of it.
afvandevorst.be / www.selfridges.com