How Veronique Branquinho recycled and threw away tradwife style

Belgium in the fashion world is mostly known for it’s famed Antwerp Six, a group of young graduates who came just in time to put Belgium onto the map. Their talent and persistent advertisement of themselves over the 1980 to 1990 period, paved the way for many designers to come. Raf Simons, Haider Ackermann and many others rode ever so slightly on their coattails as they developed their own taste and understanding of fashion, all while building future big-hitter labels in the process. One such of those “others” was Veronique Branquinho, a designer who rather quietly creaked open a door in high fashion womenswear.

Veronique, another Belgian graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, was only 22 in 1995 when she had exited college and began her pleated skirt obsession. Within just two years, she mustered her creativity and debuted her first spring collection at Paris Fashion Week.

Her presentation was very simple, showcasing slender, airy, bichromatic maxi dress cuts of only white and black.

An important detail of the presentation is the ways the models are enveloped by nature. It’s a tool that many a glorified designer has used and is especially on the nose for Branquinho given her Antwerpse roots and the city’s reputation for carefree, devoid-of-trend fashion design.

The simplicity employed would have easily been mistaken for bore and a drought of creative influence, but it laid the foundation, alongside her fall collection later, that would eventually allow her to really display her talent.

Her Fall/Winter 1998 debut at New York fashion was something a lot more familiar. A blunt, almost overuse, of pleated skirts and turtlenecks is ever present but the experience is rudimentary for her. It gave her a chance to put something out there, something that could be remoulded and restructured for a result.

Which isn’t to say that it was bad, it was actually great and showed some ideas that would become very important parts of her style later on, most notably the floorsweeping cuts and the use of black and darkness in general.

Fall 2001 | Courtesy of Vogue/ JB Villareal/Shoot Digital for STYLE.COM

It took about two years for her to really begin harnessing this style, which would be when she released her 2001 fall-winter collection. The collection had many of the same elements of her originals but her reworking of some of the composition gave her style a different angle. It was much, much darker, and her placement of black throughout the presentation was poetic, enchanting and put a subtle veil of seriousness on her work that was already present before but not in quite as refined a state. The introduction of the suited and jacketed looks conjure up the image of a determined, unabashed woman, a character epitomized in all of Veronique’s work.

Fall 2003 | Courtesy of Vogue / Marco Madeira

From her near alien 2003 FW collection that added a glossiness and angularity, to her FW 2004 collection that revised many of those same traits (but with a cloak-like incorportation of hats), to her SS 2008 and 2016 collections which referenced her first work, Veronique’s greatest feat is her ability to appropriate antisexual attire and cues and reverse them by adding a level of reserved intimacy and sexiness to them.

Fall 2004 | Courtesy of Vogue / Marco Madeira
Resort 2016 | Ronald Stoops / Courtesy of Veronique Branquinho

Really, what her work has done is taking the sexually limited box that women are placed in — the male dictation of a women’s sense of individuality and sexual expression , the style thought of by so many rape culture perpetuators as sexual assault repellent— and overthrowing it by reassociating it with the ability of a woman to to have a sense of basicness and demurity that does not just coexist with but her sexual expression in all of its quietness. The ability to be covered up but still be openly sexual. And that is something extremely commendable on her part.

Unfortunately, her last runway show was in 2017 and she seems to be retiring from fashion. Which, in context with her work, is deserved and expected. Too many artists appear on the radar and push too hard. But Veronique’s reservation and unembarassment shown in her work, is an actual quality of herself, showing just how real she was since the beginning.

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