Coordinator and guide at MoMu Antwerp

On September 4 and 5, the ModeMuseum Antwerp reopened with a solid festive program and exhibitions on the program. Guide and coordinator Katleen Derijcke had her hands full the past few weeks, but took the time for FashionUnited to talk about her 20-year career at MoMu.

How do you end up as a guide at MoMu?

I am originally from West Flanders and actually studied to become a teacher of French, History and English. I taught for a few years, but it wasn’t for me. Finally, I started working for Living Tomorrow in Vilvoorde. Twenty years ago, I moved to Antwerp because I knew people in the city at the time, I joined the Friends of the MoMu. This is why I was invited to the inauguration of the museum. There, Linda Loppa, then director of MoMu, spoke to me. We hadn’t even spoken to each other, the reason was purely visual. There was a click and she asked me to guide the MoMu. Then it went really fast: she didn’t really like doing VIP tours herself, so I guided them, with Linda next to me. I learned a lot this way. I remember that once Yohji Yamamoto was too early for a museum appointment. Linda was still teaching at the fashion academy and she thought I should take care of him. Now I’m used to a lot of things, but I was shocked. I had a great relationship with Loppa, she was my mentor. I learned a lot from her, thanks to her I am where I am today.

About Katleen Derijcke:

  • Age: 58
  • Education: French, History, English
  • Current position: 20 years coordinator and guide at the MoMu in Antwerp
  • Professional career: 1982-1994 teacher
  • 1995-1998 operation of a shoe store (family business)
  • 1999-2002 Guide Living Tomorrow

What exactly is your position?

In coordination with colleagues from Public Relations, I lead the team of guides. I maintain close contact with the designer. The designer decides how the exhibition should be guided. I then translate their story into a guided tour for the guides. Thanks to this collaboration, you forge a special bond with the designer. I can thus directly answer all my questions or those of the guides. I always like to give tours myself. I could not live without it. On September 4, the MoMu reopens, after three years of renovation. We have formed a new team of guides for this. We found them through a social media call and made a selection based on age, gender, diversity. There are different types of team leaders for each type of group: preschool, school, cultural groups, workshops. Their profiles are very diverse, from a former professor to someone who has worked in fashion for years.

Do you have a tip for those who want to become MoMu guides?

Some guides already give up during the training because the work is easily underestimated. So I always warn newcomers that they will have to re-study twice a year, with each new exhibition. The exhibition, the biographies, and now in addition to the silhouettes there is art. 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 appearing. Visitors have often seen all of the exhibits. So it’s going to be tough for our new guides, but I have every confidence in them.

Has work changed you?

My work has given me a very different view of fashion. When I was young in the ’80s fashion was very over the top – think of TV shows like Dallas and Dynasty. I already dressed quite austere, including the black nylons that were only worn at funerals. However, I was interested in fashion and I bought all the issues of the Mode Dit is Belgisch magazine at the time. I have become much more critical after all these years. I will never wear anything with a logo either, I like to keep it discreet. I like the sober and timeless designs, from Margiela, AF Vandevorst, Tim Vansteenbergen. In recent years, I wear Dries Van Noten more often. So I also have a little problem with fast fashion. When I show young people around, I try to explain how, in the 1970s, there was nothing new until the beginning of a season. But then you walk out of the museum and see the bags stuffed with cheap chains. I understand everyone stores on a specific budget, but do you really need to buy something new every week? Today I was wearing a coat that was twenty years old and no one noticed it. I really learned to shop less and a lot more consciously. It is only when I need something that I go to look for it. And if I no longer wear clothes, I sell them. I also learned to wear clothes. When I showed his exhibit in Yamamoto, he said, “You know, perfection is ugly. I felt caught off guard. Now I understand and totally agree. It is normal to see that a garment has been worn.

Are there any downsides to your job?

The hardest part for me sometimes is the lack of respect for the work of designers. Because of my work, I know some designers personally and know what passion they work with. People still don’t realize how hard they work on a collection and how much time they spend on it. Every season again, twice a year. I have enormous respect for them. Designers also reflect what is happening in society. They react to social changes, sometimes they are even visionaries. We also show it in our opening E / MOTION exhibit. Fashion in transition (from 4/9 to 23/1 at MoMu, nvdr). The attacks of September 11 were almost “predicted” or felt by some designers, fashion photographers. Creative minds are sensitive, they sense events coming. They are also often socially engaged. Think for example of Walter Van Beirendonck’s collections or Martin Margiela’s AIDS T-shirts.

What project are you really proud of?

The exhibition 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 hung next to the pieces he designed for Hermès. It was very informative. This forced the visitor to take a close look at the clothes. The exhibition around Dries Van Noten also stuck with me. So beautiful, how he showed his inspiration. Art and fashion came together. I love Belgian designers, they are very down to earth, that’s fine with me.

How do you see the future of MoMu?

Of course, it will be completely different. There are now three exhibition halls instead of one. As a result, we can now finally display the archive collection. The lace collection is also a source of pride, but still unknown to the general public. We are now putting it in the spotlight during ‘P.LACE.S – La face cachée d’Anvers’ (from 25/9 to 2/1 at five locations in Antwerp, nvdr). There is also the new MoMu Café and we finally have a shop with collaborations from alumni, beautiful merchandising and other local and sustainable products. The offer is very affordable in terms of price, there is something for everyone.

What does MoMu mean to you?

During the renovation, our offices moved to the Kaasstraat. The students of the fashion academy were able to come back to ModeNatie before us. So there was once again a great dynamic in the building. On my first day working in the renewed MoMu, I suddenly felt like a completely different person. The place, the building, the fashion students: it gives me energy and it keeps me young. When I first entered the showroom after the renovation, I got goosebumps. The space has become so beautiful. The scenography of the E / MOTION exhibition is completely different from what we are used to. The MoMu is back on the map. We are also in a prime location in the center of Antwerp. I’m really proud of MoMu and very happy to be able to work there.

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited NL. The text has been translated and edited for an international audience.

Over the past two decades, the Antwerp Fashion Museum has assembled the largest collection of contemporary Belgian fashion in the world. In addition, it regularly presents intriguing exhibitions. After three years of renovations, the MoMu reopened on September 4, 2021. The official opening weekend is also the start of a city festival that runs until January 2022.


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