At Antwerp Academy‘s last graduation show, Miquel Boutens‘ work stood out from the crowd. This Brugge native, who presented a refined and dreamy menswear collection, sat down with us to tell us all about the creative world he inhabits, last-minute stage fright and what he’s planning on doing next.

What was the concept behind your collection?

I was thinking of Saint-Exupéry‘s The Little Prince and I liked the idea of a boy who was not able to communicate with the adult world, envisaging life in a naive and childish way. I worked on 12 different silhouettes, which were summarised by one sentence. Each sentence expressed something that was not possible in reality, but conceivable within a child’s mind.

Why did you use pastel colours?

Marie-Antoinette was a key source of inspiration and I wanted something soft and delicate. There were details referencing her historical period, such as pearls and ribbons. I used transparency as well, which brought a poetic dimension to the clothes.

Were you interested in the contrast between strictly tailored shapes and ethereal fabrics?

Definitely. I focused on silk, since I was looking for fluidity. Even though I used sequins and embroidery, I didn’t want to lose this boyish attitude. I guess I wanted a balance between fragile and masculine.

The collection seemed quite dressy as well.

Yes, it was. There were preppy and dressier touches, such as bow ties and tailored shirts. When I was younger, I used to work in my parents’ gourmet restaurant, which means I was often in a sophisticated and formal context.

Some outfits reminded me of sleepwear and the 1930s.

The idea was that you would read the book at night, just before going to sleep. Some jacket fastenings made you think of dressing gowns, too.

I saw your collection on the first night. How did you feel before the show?

It was stressful, to be honest. I was worried about the music, not knowing if it’d work with the clothes. It gets very intense when you have to dress your models. I basically had 20 minutes for 12 outfits and you want to control everything. There were accessories to think about, as well as delicate items that needed to be handled with care. There was a small corner backstage where you could check everything before the models walked out on the catwalk. Fortunately, I had a friend helping me. I don’t think I would have managed on my own.

How did you get into fashion?

I studied architecture at first and realised it was not what I wanted to do. In the first year you draw a lot, which I really enjoyed, but things became quite mathematical after that and I got lost. I decided to switch to fashion and got into the Academy in Antwerp. I found out that I liked fashion at a later stage, it was not something I was always into.

How old are you?

I’m 26.

What’s the most important thing you learned at the Academy?

I learned to defend my ideas, to be independent and work alone. You don’t have a system of regular assignments there. You get a project for the whole year and need to focus on it. Teachers give you freedom to develop your ideas and it’s more about exploring yourself and finding your own identity. I guess you have to be like a blank canvas when you start. People who have too much of an idea of what they want to do don’t normally get in.

What’s happening next?

I won two prizes, namely the FFI Award and the Feeling x Essentiel prize. For the FFI, I will showcase my work during Scoop International at the Saatchi Gallery in London, which takes place between the 8th and 10th of July. I guess I will also intern at Essentiel, which I’m looking forward to.