It is graduation showtime! Also at the shoedesign department of the Academy of Fine Arts of Sint-Niklaas (SASK). Together with the fashion department of SASK, each year a dazzling show is put together.
For 4 years I studied fashion footwear design in Sint-Niklaas. It is a wonderful but intensive program led by footwear designer Anne Poesen and orthopedic shoemaker Patrick Creemers. SASK is the only art academy in Belgium offering a course specialized in footwear design. It is an art academy, so it is not a class in shoemaking. The students are always pushed to experiment with new materials and silhouettes, resulting in designs that are completely out of the box, breath taking, but wearable. An important remark is that most students taking the course, also have another job. Some of them have a very different background. But they all share a serious passion for shoes. They invest a lot – some students might argue all – of their spare time to create a new shoe collection every year, in which they put their heart and soul. I believe that the different backgrounds of the students, together with teachers who try to get the best out of each student, is what makes their work so rich and refreshing.
At the end of every school year, all the students have to present their work to a jury and in a catwalk show. Last year I celebrated my graduation, this year I was sitting in the audience of the fashion shoeshow for the first time. It is fun to see it from the other side. Relaxed enjoying the show, in strong contrast with the stress of the previous years.
It is a 4 year program. In the first year students learn the basics of designing and shoemaking by fulfilling 3 separate projects. This year’s projects were a black shoe inspired by an object, a boot inspired by an artist and a sneaker inspired by a profession. From the second year on, students have to create a collection of 3, 4 or 5 pairs in a theme that they choose. Students are also free to design for women, men or children. I know most of the students in the program, since I’ve studied in the same school over the past 4 years. But it is lovely to see how they develop their own style, and often their shoes are a mirror of their personality. Let me introduce you to a couple of wonderful creations and designers that caught my attention during the show.
When the first collection, Kristine Dekimpe’s Sur/Sous l’eau, hit the runway, I was immediately swept of my feet. The nude ankle boot with black ribbons was classic elegant and refreshing at the same time. I have to admit I have a week spot for heels. If you make them really high and you put models in them who walk very elegantly, they become even more magical.
As many of you know, I was born with an exceptional love for shoes. If I were still 4 years old, I would have driven my parents crazy in order to get the shoes by Delphine Devroe! Somewhere between a sneaker, a slipper and cool boots. I’ve rarely seen such a successful combination of 100% girly and 100% cool. Love it!
In the third year Sophie Van Der Cruyssen’s collection Un_Construct took me by surprise. I had seen her previous collections and even some Instagram-photos of this year’s work, but seeing the complete collection was really enchanting. She is finding her own signature style and I am definitely looking forward to her graduation collection of next year.
The graduation collections are always the apotheosis of the show. This year, 4 fierce ladies obtained their degree in footwear design: Raphaëlle Dirven, Caro Peirs, Stefanie Rassaerts and Sandra Van Weddingen. I’ve followed their work over the past 4 years, so I could blindly guess the designer of each collection. Their designs all have a very distinct identity and style.
The first graduation collection to go on stage was Raphaëlle Dirven’s Nascinti. All designers have a week spot for a certain kind of shoes. For me that is pumps, for miss Dirven that is definitely boots. The fitting of the collection was perfect, it made the legs of the models look even more beautiful. My absolute favorite of her collection is this knee high brown boot mule.
The beautifully manufactured heels of graduate Stefanie Rassaerts passed the catwalk way too quickly to see all the details. Real eye-catchers. Sandra Van Weddingen’s shoes were very experimental. But despite their curved soles, they seemed surprisingly easy to walk in.
The graduate collection to close the shoeshow, was Caro Peirs’ sneakercollection. I have almost 200 pairs of shoes, but among them are only 3 pairs of sports shoes or sneakers. Sneakers are not really my thing, unless they are designed by miss Peirs. She plays in a wonderful way with typical design elements and materials used in sneakers, but always mixing it with classic details.
During the 40 minute shoeshow around 20 students showed their work. There were much more amazing shoes. Some real beauties in the designs from the first year students. The heels of 2nd year Elisabeth Claes , the men’s collection of 3rd year Joline Vandenheulen and boot collection of 3rd year Amalia Aroutiounian were exquisitely finished, showing an extraordinary craftsmanship.
Too bad I have to wait a whole year for the next SASK shoeshow. If you want to see the shoes for yourself, you still have a chance at the SASK open house on June 27 – 28 in Sint-Niklaas. If you want to follow into the footsteps of the students, you can also apply and subscribe for the footwear design course during the open house.