Known as the “other” country where beer is popular, so it seems obvious that Stylight had to launch a dedicated site in this country, earlier this year! The beer connection, however, is not the only similarity between our founding nation & Belgium. Belgians also love online shopping and fashion: 76% of Belgians shop online and saving time has become more important than price when it comes to making a purchase. The number one most popular products that Belgian shoppers buy online? Clothing and shoes! And what’s more, they heavily rely on online information to research their future purchase.
So, read on, brush up on your fashion knowledge and learn that there’s more to Belgium than just beer and chocolate (lots of chocolate!)
1. The ‘Antwerp Six’
Let’s start with some fashion basics. These are the six designers that in the 1980s really put Antwerp on the fashion map. Dries van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Bikkembergs, Marina Yee, Dirk van Saene, and Walter van Beirendonck were dubbed the ‘Antwerp Six’ when they chose to showcase their deconstructed collections together at London Fashion Week. All six continue to play important roles, with Dries van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, and Walter van Beirendonck even appearing in this year’s Business of Fashion’s list of Most Influential People in Fashion. The latter also created the upcoming GLÖDANDE collection for Ikea in which he “wanted to give a box a soul”.
2. Diamonds are a girl’s best friends (but so are Wouter & Hendrix)
If Audrey Hepburn could have chosen another city to have breakfast, it would definitely have been Antwerp. The city has been the world’s diamond capital ever since the 16th century and 80% of all rough diamonds pass through a mere four-block district. But these days it’s not only diamonds that add a little glitter to a girl’s life: Belgian jewellery designer duo Wouter and Hendrix have been creating exquisite hand-crafted jewellery with a couture finish since 1984. For Katrin and Karin, humour is an endless inspiration in their work which makes them quintessentially Belgian.
3. Antwerp Fashion Festival
OK so New York, London, Milan, and Paris may be the fashion capitals of the world, organising their twice yearly Fashion Weeks, but Antwerp has its own Fashion Festival. It started in 2012 with a Fashion Night and has now evolved into a two-day affair to celebrate everything and everyone that makes Antwerp a true fashion capital. The next edition is in September 2016.
4. A #streetstyle destination
The city of Antwerp is a much beloved street style destination with its medieval old town, cobbled streets, and central train station, the harbour town has a lot of photogenic spots and is often featured on dedicated blogs such as The Sartorialist, Style Bubble, and A Shaded View on Fashion. It must be the cooky nature of the town – like its citizens, apparently – with its big city mentality on only 200m² (four times smaller than Berlin!) that makes it so appealing.
5. Royal Academy for Fine Arts
This is the place where the ‘Antwerp Six’ were all educated and today Walter van Beirendonck is its artistic director. Antwerp’s fashion stardom is actually largely due to the reputation of the Academy. Fashion talent from around the world flock to this fashion school – ranked third in the Business of Fashion’s Global Fashion School Ranking 2015 – with a highly selective admission process and known for its conceptual take on garment creation. Earlier this year Academy graduate, Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski – who’s previously worked at The Row and Céline – became creative director at Hermès. And Academy alumnus, Demna Gvasalia, was just made Balenciaga’s new artistic director. Enough said.
Antwerp’s very own fashion museum! Founded in 2002, the museum hosts two major, multidisciplinary exhibitions per year. The museum hosts the creative memory of the city of Antwerp and they have a yearly award for promising Academy talent. This year’s winner? German-born Marie-Sophie Beinke with her collection ‘Der Club der wilden Maler’, on view until 22nd October.
7. Rising Star Christian Wijnants
This Brussels-born designer may well be one of the new Antwerp six talents that were educated at the Academy. His rich, layered graphics combined with elegant knitwear are both subtle and outstanding. He launched his own label in 2003 which is now sold in over more than 100 boutiques worldwide, including Barneys and Harvey Nichols. In his words: ‘Antwerp has a rich history and I love the city. It keeps inspiring me’. This may well be the reason why he chose the town as the location for his flagship store which opened in September on the Steenhouwersvest.
8. Sofie Valkiers
Belgium’s most famous fashion blogger; Sofie was born and raised in Antwerp. She originally left her beloved city to attend cooking school in Paris, but six months later she returned after having fallen in love with fashion, started her very own fashion blog Fashionata and hasn’t looked back since. Sofie travels the world and writes a fashion week column for Vogue China but, unlike other bloggers, she has no plans to leave Antwerp any time soon. She calls the city and its inhabitants her greatest inspiration. Last year her first book, Little Black Book, was published and it’s been a bestselling read amongst Belgians ever since. Sofie is a self-proclaimed luxury shopper and in her book she shares her favorite shopping addresses from around the world, including the best in Antwerp, obviously.
9. Top Models Belgium
Several models of the moment were born and raised in this tiny country. Names to know are Hanne Gaby, Yumi Lambert and Ine Neets. Hanne (originally from Kortrijk) now lives in New York and is known for her quirky fashion sense. She is a favorite of Vogue’s Tommy Ton, the famous street style photographer. Brussels beauty, Yumi, has walked in shows for Hermès and Chanel this year, and strutted her stuff last year as Angel for Victoria’s Secret. In her spare time she shares hilarious selfies on Instagram. Ine – originally from the small town of Wuustwezel – was scouted in Antwerp when she was just 16, but first wanted to finish high school. Today she is one of the 50 most promising models talents in the world; she did both the opening and closing for Oscar de la Renta, you know.
10. Antwerp is a good idea, too
Still not convinced? Read our shopping and foodie tips as to why Belgium’s second largest city is always a good idea, too. For fashion, head to Graanmarkt 13. It was the first of several concept stores in the city with art, interior design and fashion from labels such as Isabel Marant, Marni, and Cedric Charlier. An exhibition space for upcoming talent, as well as a lunch and dinner area, are also now part of the emporium. Other shops to pay a visit are: Step by Step (Lombardenvest 18), Seven Rooms (Sint-Antoniusstraat 12), Verso (Lange Gasthuisstraat 11), Het Modepaleis by Dries van Noten (Nationalestraat 16) and Essentiel (Schuttershofstraat 42). And don’t forget to visit the Kloosterstraat area either for some vintage and design shopping therapy. Start the day with a coffee at Kolonel Koffie in ‘t Zuid or Caffènation (Mechelsesteenweg 16); enjoy some cake at Baked (Paleisstraat 15) or dinner at Backyard (Grote Markt 52); or pick up a copy of Derek Blyth’s The 500 hidden secrets of Antwerp, you won’t regret it!
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|By Lisette Pennavaire|