Kaat Debo took the reins of the fashion museum (MoMu) of Antwerp just a few months back while maintaining her role as director of the major fashion magazine A Magazine, we had the pleasure to meet her just a few days before the launch of The Paper Fashion Exhbition, which was created and curated by Vassilis Zidianakis with Atopos. Minimum stress, lots of optimism, and a lot of fashion dominated out conversation.
Let’s start with the current exhibition that the museum presented with the collaboration of Atopos and Vassilis Zidianakis. It is a very fun topic with a very thorough and diverse research. When I saw the exhibition in Athens I was very much attracted by the diversity of the selection and the way different objects from the past and the present were combined. It is almost the same way we have been working in the museum the last seven years.
Why are historic elements important to a contemporary fashion exhibition? Fashion does not work in a linear way, it is a cycle. Fashion design always recuperates from previous eras. Why not surprise our visitors with poor paper garments from Japan that there were used decades ago and compare them with a Margiela dress?
How did you get to become director of the museum? I studied literature in Antwerp and Berlin, and I did some research in the theater studies department. A few years ago I simply applied for a job as a curator of the museum. I worked for five years next to the former director of MoMu, Linda Loppa, and I certainly have learned lot from her. It is wonderful to work with living designers from Antwerp like Margiela, Veronique Branquinho, Bernhard Willhelm. Sometimes I feel that it is almost a privilege. The challenge is to find interesting and dynamic ways to present fashion throughout our exhibitions.
How many people work for the museum? Twenty five people. However, three of them only devote themselves to exhibitions and three more to our library. We are mainly funded by the Province of Antwerp and from the Flemish Government.
Is there a targeted group for the museum? We address to everyone. I get angry when they consider the museum as something very elitist. All people can recognize the creative, the idea and the concept behind the exhibitions. One good example is the Bernhard Willhelm exhibition which we thought it would be provocative but after all everybody found it inspiring, even older people.
You are mainly concerned with conceptual fashion. Do you ever feel the need to focus for a period in street fashion? Of course, I do. But it is very difficult. We need a bigger team and a bigger budget for that. For example Margiela had a vast influence on street fashion but it is extremely difficult to document that. For the time being we prefer buying and collecting some of the clothes from our current local fashion designers, from each collection. Things you see in the street are really hard to collect.
Why do you think Antwerp developed such an important fashion scene? There is a mix of reasons. It is a history starting from the seventies, when Antwerp was a vibrant city with an enthusiast arts and music scene. A team of inspired teachers happened to be in the school of fine arts and in its fashion department, and then students gained from this. In the beginning of the eighties we had a financial support plan from the government towards the textiles manufacturers and later on to young talents of fashion designers. Then, the Antwerp Six collective made a real change in the international fashion scene.
Why would you recommend Antwerp as a city to live and work? Antwerp today is an ideal place for younger people to stand out. It is well connected with the big European capital cities of fashion and the quality of