Antwerp is a port city consisting of a very diverse population of about half a million people. While most people identify Antwerp with diamonds and Rubens or Van Dyck, this quietly vibrant town is also emerging as a fashion capital in its own rights. Olivier Theyskens, Raf Simons, and Veronique Branquinho have each brought the Belgian aesthetics and sensibility to the fashion world at large. And walking around here–just window shopping in Antwerp on a hazy afternoon, visiting both global and local brands–is a fun way to soak up some of this sartorial inspiration.
Of course all of the big names are here,
squeezed in between the smaller names that are equally loved:
That’s actually Karl Lagerfeld’s latest location, opened just 2 or 3 weeks before I got here. I think he has one of the best logos out there (you know you are a legend when your silhouette is so iconic it can be a logo):
But you know, this part of town is for the well-established. The ones who have paid their dues and/or are backed by conglomerates. Just a bit away is where the fashion start-ups, newbies, and future stars live and breathe. Just walk around and you’ll run into ateliers like this one,
with raw, open space adorned with uncut fabrics or newly dyed skins, ready to take shape from a designer’s pair of scissors. Look at this next photo carefully… can you see the silhouette of a designer sitting at his sketching table?
I wish that was my studio, with my sketches. My dresses hanging on the rack. If I didn’t already have this life, that would be me at that table, on a Saturday afternoon, immersed in my own imagination. Sigh.
Like other towns in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, you can’t get too far from anywhere before you see some great brick architecture. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten lost just because I had to go down just one more alley or courtyard to see what was behind the gate…
And like with all other towns in Europe, the best window shopping has nothing to do with fashion and everything to do with sweets:
This teeny tiny bakery here, with a less than imposing window display,
still commands a long line of local customers:
It turns out that Goossens makes the best roggeverdommeke (a dark, crispy raisin bread) and boterkoeken (buttery rolls with various fillings), still baked in the old tradition of hand kneading. I’ll have to get in line. You know I can’t resist any pastry that has the word “miserable” on it 😀 :