Text by Francesca Fontanesi

After studying at the Academy of the Antwerp Six, Willy Vanderperre embarked on his career as a photographer. From Raf Simons and Dior to Jil Sander and Prada, the Belgian photographer has built upon a strict religious upbringing and adolescent solitude as the driving force behind his creative sphere.

Willy Vanderperre: Prints, Films, a Rave and More
MoMu – Fashion Museum Antwerp
From 27 April through 4 August 2024




The new exhibition hosted by MoMu – Fashion Museum Antwerp explores the work of Belgian photographer Willy Vanderperre. The exhibition highlights how Vanderperre’s fascination with youth and subcultures has been a true motivational force throughout his nearly three-decade career as a photographer: in continuous dialogue with his photographs, Vanderperre has selected various works of art that have been an important source of inspiration in the continuous development of his personal universe. The overview of his photographic practice explores the evolution of his visual language, as well as the years of collaboration with Olivier Rizzo and Raf Simons.

“I grew up in Belgium as a New Waver, which is why fashion has always been important to me”.

– Willy Vanderperre

Born in the Flemish region of Belgium in 1971, Willy Vanderperre initially studied fashion at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp before shifting his focus to photography. At the Academy, famous for the Antwerp Six – Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, and Marina Yee – Vanderperre first encountered the friends who would become his closest collaborators: Raf Simons, Olivier Rizzo, and Peter Philips. The rural heart from which Vanderperre hails is a far cry from the world of fashion, and this forms the focal point of his creative sphere: echoes of a strict religious upbringing and a strong connection to ancient Flemish art transform into a sharp simplicity in his work. He learns as a teenager the sensation of loneliness, that of being an outsider, an experience later revisited in his directorial debut with Naked Heartland in 2016, a film in which three lonely teenagers inhabit spaces steeped in Catholicism and conservatism. Today, among the most important campaigns signed by the Belgian photographer are those of Raf Simons, Christian Dior, Dior Homme, Jil Sander, and Prada. Vanderperre’s work is a blend of current yet nostalgic frames, highlighting Vanderperre’s reflections on youth subcultures, isolation, and the redemptive power of pop culture; a chorus that echoes throughout his career.

“It would be bordering on pretentious to say that I understand youth. I’m 53 years old and fully aware of that. Understanding youth in today’s world is impossible. I can only offer an interpretation of what I believe youth to be, through my own eyes”.

– Willy Vanderperre

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