New York, Milan, Paris, London. And Antwerp…?
As the Belgian capital of fashion, Antwerp is often overlooked on the global fashion map. The city offers much more than chocolate and beer however. Despite its small size (it’s nearly eight times smaller than London), Antwerp boasts nearly 70 home grown fashion labels, a designated fashion district (located in ‘Het Zuid’ meaning ‘the south’ and pronounced ‘het tzerd’) and even the high street shopping centre is housed in a former state ballroom.
Photo by d_vdm
The city’s relationship with fashion dates back to the 15th century when it gained a reputation for cloth trading, weaving and dyeing. Nowadays, the fashion department at Antwerp’s Royal Academy is considered one of the best in the world (Vetement’s Demna Gvasalia studied here… say no more), and with cheaper living costs than in London, Paris and New York, the city is a hub for fashion start-ups, creative types and young designers looking for something brighter, bolder, different.
Here’s a selection of the best of the city:
MoMu Located in the heart of the Zuid, MoMu fashion museum is a contrast of sky-high timber and floor-to-ceiling glass. It has played host to a range of impressive exhibitions and the bookstore is in a class of its own.
Graanmarkt 13. Belgian couple Tim Van Geloven and Ilse Cornelissens fell in love with the building at Graanmarkt 13 and decided to create a welcoming space for all the beautiful things in life. Today it houses a high-end fashion boutique, a contemporary art gallery, a fantastic restaurant serving simple, light, seasonal dishes, as well as a luxury design apartment accommodating up to six.
Collectif d’Anvers Founded by Natalie Van Lijsebettens this atelier showcases her work and that of other top shoe designers, mostly graduates from the city’s Royal Academy. In addition to bespoke designs and sustainable materials, a customised service with traditional beech lasts created for client’s’ feet is available.
Delvaux At over 180 years old, Delvaux claims the title of the world’s oldest luxury leather goods company. Official suppliers to the royalty, it manufactures all its goods in Belgium and since 1908 it has documented each design in “Le Livre d’Or” (The Golden Book). ‘Le Brillant’, Delvaux’s signature design, is stitched by hand and consists of sixty-four pieces of leather and metal finishings.
Dries van Noten Van Noten’s eccentric, boho style has won over stars such as Cate Blanchett and Maggie Gyllenhaal and are a firm favourite with the Belgian royalty. Born into a family in the tailoring trade, the designer is one of the ‘Antwerp Six’ who took London Fashion Week by storm in 1986. His flagship store is housed in ‘Het Modepaleis’ (the fashion palace), a restored 19th century menswear emporium. Shunning the commercial in favour of a more democratic luxury, Dries van Noten does not sell haute couture – all of the designs are ready to wear and are not advertised.Photo by Michell Zappa