Students at Antwerp Fashion Academy "end up with total mental depressions"

Dozens of former students at the Antwerp Fashion Academy say that work pressure at the academy is enormous and the atmosphere very tense. Their accounts can be read on the British website "Business of Fashion". The stories emerged after a student committed suicide last month. The academy director says he is taking the accounts seriously.

"Several students developed serious depression and drug addictions in order to keep up with the workload", Gerald Spiesl, a former student, is quoted by Business of Fashion. "Or they simply decided to quit their dream of studying there because the pressure was unbearable." 

"You have a lot of people who are confronted with quitting or having to quit because of the teachers' comments and remarks", another former student said. "There are a lot of cases where students end up with total mental depressions." 

The VRT talked to a female Academy student in Antwerp. She confirms the high work pressure, but says every student handles it in a different way. "I came here expecting that (...). I knew I would be stressed, because otherwise I wouldn't be here  - because this school is very renowned." 

Accounts of racism

Johan Pas, who is at the helm of the academy, says that "it should never happen that pressure results in this kind of thing. In the past few weeks, I engaged in talks with students and teachers, and with the management, in order to see where we can reduce the pressure, and create a better balance." 

There are also complaints of racism. The student giving her account to the VRT, confirms this. "There were moments when I thought: this would not have happened, if I had been a Belgian. But as time went by, teachers opened their minds to see me as a person, not as a Korean." 

Johan Pas says there is a special training for teachers to emphasize this multicultural aspect. It has not been installed as a standard training yet, but this is coming, he adds.