#SuzyCouture: Slow Fashion at A. F. Vandevorst

“We can see our lives in each and every piece,” announced An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx, partners since their first year at fashion school in Belgium in 1987 and now celebrating 20 years of individual style as A. F. Vandevorst.

With the label’s signature Red Cross, each outfit seems hospital fresh. In this celebratory season, they also added a book of two decades of their work and the words ALWAYS+FOREVER to the logo.

It was a good moment, sitting among the history and the calm of the Oratory of the Louvre in Paris, to reflect how much Belgium – then and now – can offer fashion. The signature look is decent, discreet and appropriate to women’s lives.

The show opened with an outfit from the first Autumn/Winter 1998-99 show: a saddle corset to give a sexual hint to a sporty design. It was followed by a hospital-style white cotton shirt trimmed in blood red. The designers spoiled the potential fashion quiz, however, by announcing with clip-on library cards the year of the leather harness or the papery trench coat.

The point was, of course, to show how timeless the A. F. Vandevorst

clothes are, in comparison to the current, crazy, ever-changing fast fashion. These were not feeble or mindless designs, and the styling of a clinical mask or a face covered in woolly material gave that frisson of discomfort associated with hospitals.

Why does fashion have to race so fast that at the end of the Paris couture season people have been announcing, “See you in two weeks for ready-to-wear.”

The Vandevorsts are proof that it does not have to be like that. The show had its dramatic moments, like the opening with models waving heraldic flags. But the two decades of design were also intelligently curated, using mainly black, white and red – with the occasional foray into a beige trench coat or an olive-drab dress. Its skirt was sliced at the front to reveal thigh-high boots – one of the duo’s signatures, which looks so relevant today.

Ten minutes is a brief time to show the essence of 40 collections over 20 years. But the Vandevorsts prove that they have been able to keep a distinct voice.