Alexander Dhoest

Professor

Queering Masculinities: The Antwerp Fashion Scene

This study explores the role that Belgian men's fashion played in the redefinition of masculinities in the past decades. It examines how the creative practices of designers of the world-famous 'Antwerp fashion scene' have made an impact, not just in the fashion scene, but also in society at large, for presenting alternative versions of masculinity.

We set out to address two key research questions:
- Did the fashion designers under study manage to dismantle pre-existing paradigms of masculinity as well as mold new subversive ones?
- How was their work of redefining masculinities through fashion related to, and informed by, the visual culture in which they were operating?

Despite the vast existing research on role of the arts and literature in 'queering' masculinities, there is still a huge gap in academic scholarship on the topic of fashion. By filling such an epistemological gap, this project also seeks to dismantle the deep-seated association of fashion with merely frivolous concerns. We believe that fashion represents an important barometer of social change, both reflecting and affecting cultural development.

To shed light on the redefinition of masculinity by the Antwerp fashion scene, this project will examine the work of a group of internationally established menswear designers, all of whom either trained or worked in Belgium, particularly in Antwerp, and gained success worldwide. In order to do this, we will analyze their collections: both the garments and their visual representation in ‘lookbooks’, clips of catwalk shows, advertising campaigns and fashion editorials. To contextualize these images, we will draw on visual analysis of intertextual references, in particular to film and photography, as well as interviews with the designers. Such analyses will be developed in three stages: archival research; visual analysis; and interviews.

This research is constitutively interdisciplinary, insofar as it is situated at the intersection of fashion studies and masculinity studies. This project being one of the first instances of fashion studies in Belgium, it will help put the country on the map of fashion studies by breaking the intellectual disregard for fashion research outside of the Anglo-American context; it will contribute to the development of masculinity studies in Belgian academia; and it will enrich, through a cross-disciplinary approach, current debates on both fashion as a form of culture and on masculinity as a set of social norms.