Talent is a peculiar thing. You cannot pinpoint where it comes from nor analyze why it moves us, but fashion is just like any other field: you simply know talent when you see it. Despite being in her early 20s and still figuring out how to launch her own label, Alexandra Verschueren has this unique combination of creativity, drive and flair that singles her out from the plethora of new graduates. Sitting in the living room of her Antwerp apartment – which also serves as her studio – she comes across as warm and fun- loving, a risk-taking forward thinker with both her feet firmly grounded in reality.
This combination of pragmatism and imagination is alluring, but it’s her typically Belgian modesty that will win you over. Even though Alexandra graduated with great distinction from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts not once but twice – for her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s in Fashion Design – she’s far too humble to point this achievement out. Her perfectionist streak is, nevertheless, immediately noticeable. “I work a lot with details and really focus on them. My silhouettes are simple and minimal, but I like the idea of embellishment. I love origami, because pleats give me a sense of meditation. I remember ironing each piece individually for ages last year, but didn’t mind at all,” she explains of the collection she presented at the Hyères International Fashion and Photography Festival, which won her the Grand Prix of the Jury. If pleats are one of Alexandra’s trademarks, she also finds inspiration in everyday objects, translating their appeal into clothing. “I’m quite neurotic at work and get obsessed with certain things. At the moment, I’m really into these Japanese water bottles, with their sleek design and moulded curves. I’m trying to work out how to reproduce these waves into fabric, which is not easy to do.”
Things have been hectic since her triumphant victory at Hyères, although having a lot on her plate is not something that scares the Antwerp native. Inspired by paper, Japanese traditions and architectural shapes, she produced a strong and beautiful show, which not only managed to excite the international press, but aroused the interest of industry key players as well. The online site of French Vogue added her to their list of last year’s most influential fashion names, an accolade she still cannot come to terms with. “It was surreal for me and I felt like I didn’t deserve it,” Alexandra admits. “It’s an honour, of course, but other people on that list have achieved much more than I have. I think it pushes you to prove yourself more.” Currently working on the 15 new outfits she will present during her comeback show at Hyères, she’s also busy with the launch of her eponymous womenswear brand. Researching a PhD on the relationship between fashion and architecture at the University of Antwerp has allowed her to get funding and teach students on a regular basis. She will also inject part of her €15.000 Hyères prize into the launch of her debut collection and has talked to banks, industry professionals and experienced insiders to find out about financing and production options. “People here always tell you not to start your own thing, but why shouldn’t I? I’ve already met quite a few manufacturers and will focus on my own label after Hyères. Manufacturing in Belgium is expensive, but there may be openings in France or Japan. I’m planning on presenting my first collection in Paris next October.”