FashionMuseum Antwerp will reopen on 4 and 5 September with a solid party programme. There are, of course, also expos on the agenda. Guide coordinator Katleen Derijcke had the weeks and the hands full. Nevertheless, she made time for FashionUnited to talk about her 20-year career between the walls of the MoMu.
How do you end up in MoMu as a guide?
“I’m originally from West Flanders and actually studied to be a teacher – French, history and English. I taught for a few years, but that was not for me. Eventually I went to work for Living Tomorrow in Vilvoorde. I moved to Antwerp for twenty years. Because I knew few people in the city at the time, I joined the Friends of MoMu. That is why I was invited to the opening of the museum. Linda Loppa, then director of MoMu, approached me there. We hadn’t even spoken to each other, the reason was purely visual. There was a click and she asked me to guide for the MoMu. Then it went really fast: giving tours to VIPs herself was not really her cup of tea, so I showed them around, with Linda next to me. That’s how I learned a lot. I remember one time Yohji Yamamoto was early for an appointment at the museum. Linda was still teaching at the fashion academy and she thought I should take him in. Now I’m used to a lot, but then I was shocked. I had a really good relationship with Loppa, she was my mentor. I learned a lot from her, thanks to her I am where I am today.”
Katleen Derijcke in short:
What exactly does your job entail?
“In consultation with colleagues from Public Works, I lead the guide team. I maintain close contact with the designer. They determine how the exhibition should be guided. I then process their story into a tour for the guides. Through this collaboration, you build a special bond with the designer. This way I can go directly to them with all my questions from those of the guides. I also don’t really like giving guided tours myself. I couldn’t miss it. The MoMu will reopen on September 4, after three years of renovations. We have trained a new guide team for this. We found them through a social media call and a full selection based on age, gender, diversity. There are different types of guides in the team, for every type of group: preschoolers, schools, cultural, workshops… Their profiles are very diverse, from a former teacher to someone who has worked in the mode for years.”
Do you have a tip for who MoMu guides come to?
“Some guides already drop out during the training, because the job becomes easy to learn. I always warn newcomers that they will have to study twice a year, with every new exhibition. The expo, the biographies, and now art is added on top of the silhouettes. It takes a lot of study. Moreover, it is not a permanent job. In addition, the museum has been open for twenty years, new guides are only now jumping in. The visitors have often seen all the exhibitions. So it will be quite tough for our new guides, I have every confidence in it.”
Has the work changed?
“My job has given me a completely different vision of fashion. When I was young, in the 80s, fashion was very bad Over the top – think of TV series like Dallas and Dynasty. At that time I was already dressed quite soberly, including the black nylon stockings that were only worn at funerals. I was interested in fashion and bought every issue of the Mode Dit is België magazine. I have become much more critical after all these years. I will never wear anything with a logo, I like to keep it discreet. I like the sober timeless designs by Margiela, AF Vandevorst, Tim Vansteenbergen… In recent years I have been wearing Dries Van Noten more often. I also have a bit of a hard time with fast fashion. When I show young people around, I try to explain how in the 1970s we only got something new at the beginning of a season. But then you walk out of the museum and you see the overflowing bags of cheap chains… I understand that everyone shops with a specific budget, but do you really have to buy something new every week? Today I’m wearing a twenty year old coat and no one has added that. I have really learned to shop less and much more consciously. Only when I need something do I go looking for it. And when I don’t wear clothes anymore, I sell them. I also learned to wear out clothes. When I showed Yamamoto around his exhibit, he said, “You know, perfection is ugly.” I totally know I got caught… Now I understand and I totally agree. You should be able to see that a garment is worn.”
Are there also downsides to your work?
“Sometimes the most difficult thing for me is the lack of respect for designers in their work. Because of my job I do know some designers personally and I know how much passion they work with. People still don’t know how hard they toil on a collection and how much time it takes. Every season, twice a year. I have enormous respect for them. Designers are the only things alive in society They react to social changes, sometimes they are even visionary. We also show that in our opening expo E/MOTION. Mode in transition (from 4/9 to 23/1 in the MoMu, ed). The attacks of 9/11 were roughly ‘predicted’ of sensed by designers, fashion photographers… Creative minds are sensitive, they happen events. They are also often socially engaged. Think, for example, of Walter Van Beirendonck’s collections of Martin Margiela’s AIDS T-shirts.”
Which project are you really proud of?
“The expo for me was ‘Margiela, the Hermès years’, in 2017. We had already had ‘Maison Martin Margiela: ’20’ the exhibition’ in 2008, but this exhibition was really great for me. Margiela’s own designs hinge alongside the pieces he designs for Hermès. That was very instructive. It forced the visitor to look closely at the clothing. I also remember the exhibition about Dries Van Noten. So beautiful, how he got his inspiration. Art and fashion were brought together. I like Belgian designers, they are very with both feet on the ground, that suits me well.”
How do you see the future of MoMu?
“Of course it will be completely different. There are now three exhibition spaces instead of one. As a result, we can now finally show the archive collection. The lace collection is also something to be really proud of, but is still unknown to the public. We are now putting them in the spotlight during ‘P.LACE.S – The hidden side of Antwerp’ (from 25/9 to 2/1 at five locations in Antwerp, ed). In addition, there is the new MoMu Café and we finally have a shop with collabs from former students, beautiful merchandising and other local, sustainable items. The offer is very accessible in terms of prices, there is something for everyone.”
What does MoMu mean to you?
“During the renovations, our offices moved to the Kaasstraat. The students of the fashion academy were able to go to the ModeNatie before us. There was once again a nice dynamic in the building. On my first basis in reviewing MoMu different person I suddenly become a whole. The location, the building, the fashion students: it gives me energy and it keeps me young. When I first entered the exhibition hall after the renovation, I really got goosebumps. The space has become so beautiful. The scenography of the E/MOTION expo is completely different from what we are used to. MoMu is back on the map. We are also in a prime location in the center of Antwerp. I am really proud of MoMu and I am very happy that I can work there.”
FashionMuseum Antwerp has collected the largest collection of contemporary fashion worldwide for two decades. In addition, it regularly presents intriguing exhibitions. After three years of renovation work, the MoMu can reopen its doors from September 4, 2021. The official opening weekend is also the start of a city festival that will run until January 2022.
In August, FashionUnited focuses on the theme of working in fashion. For all Work in fashion reads, click here.