Firstly, I adore Antwerp for its fashion heritage, which consists of Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester and many other creators whose style and idiosyncratic aesthetics continue to contribute to contemporary fashion. That aura is incredible, and it’s perceivable that the locals celebrate their home designers. But my great love for this Belgian city is as well based on the local stores and boutiques, which always surprise me with their selection of brands and items they sell. These shop-keepers are truly passionate about their work! Been to Antwerp exactly last year, and I was more than happy to re-visit all my favourite addresses this time and see how they progress. And found some new ones as well. I must admit that it would be great to discover more of the city’s ‘cultural’ part. Sadly, the two major museums of Antwerp – The Royal Museum of Fine Arts and MoMu – are temporarily closed for renovation. Who knows, maybe next year?
But for now, scroll down to explore my beloved spots in this forever intriguing city.
Entering Ann Demeulemeester‘s spacious store is like approaching the church alter. The Belgian fashion designer’s dark romance oozes from the lace vests, velvet shirts and Victorian frocks with absorbing power, while the multi-storey boutique has a sacred charm about it. The white-wall backdrop makes you look at the details of the clothes with great scrutiny, quite breathless. Ann’s fashion used to be pure poetry with a Flemish twist, and fortunately, Sebastian Meunièr, the current creative director, successfully conveys the Demeulemeester codes in his women’s and men’s collections. And with the help of the Antwerp flagship store – which also holds the studio and atelier – Ann Demeulmeester appears to be one of the finest of Belgian fashion.
Leopold de Waelplaats
Coffee & Vinyl
Love coffee as much as good music? There’s no better place in Antwerp, then. Browse the vast collection of vinyls, from rare Serge Gainsbourg records to Portishead’s albums, while taking a sip of the delightful espresso. For those who love vinyls, but are too audio, there’s an equally impressive selection of CDs.
Just a stone throw from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Atelier D’Anvers is a cozy space with a relatively affordable, very well-curated brands. Bags by Jerome Dreyfuss and Sicilian scents by Ortigia are a chic addition to the silk floral dresses, shearling coats and corduroy trousers you will definitely find here.
A multibrand concept store with a wide range of labels: Joseph, Baum Und Pferdgarten, Vince, Frame, Morobé, J Brand, MSGM… If you’re not really into the clothes Enes sells, the interior will surely surprise. The first floor, filled with plants, little sofas and cushions, has a beautiful outdoor patio, while the second floor has those dramatic hand-carved, wooden walls.
A quite new breakfast, brunch and coffee spot that feels like a spacious apartment located in a townhouse. Everyday there’s a new specialty menu. That day they served a toast with avocado and crab, which was a literal taste heaven. Classics, like matcha and salad bowls, are always here.
Dries Van Noten
The mecca. The building, in which you see the Van Noten boutique, is fully owned by the designer and is gracefully called Het Modepalais (‘fashion palace’). The name might sound quite over-the-top, but the store is far from that term. It’s like Dries’ fashion – refined, but with an edge. The store feels like an apartment that is temporarily ‘furnished’ with the designer’s gorgeous clothes and accessories from the autumn-winter 2018 collection. Fresh flower bouquets make this place even more like at home.
A.F. Vandevorst‘s store is small, but dynamic. The brand is known for their off-kilter, punky attitude. You better get your hands on those signature, pointy-toe boots – they sell out quickly. I noticed that the boutique sells less clothes than it did last year – quite possibly this Belgian label decided to focus more on leather goods, while keep the ready-to-wear on a bespoke, couture level.
I know and admire Graanmarkt 13 for years. At the end of a small old square, there it is: a large space called just like its address. Designed by Vincent Van Buysen, filled with natural light and eclectic furniture, we’ve got the most charming place in the whole Antwerp. The store lately had a transition moment, when they switched from big brands like Marni and Isabel Marant into timeless and more niche ones: Lemaire, Kassl, Salle Privee, Simon Miller or Sofie D’hoor to name a few. The aim was to stop being a victim of fashion industry’s pace of endless trends and collections, and to stay true to personal style and love for quality. While the store itself is already a fantastic place in its concept, Graanmarkt 13 also has an already renowned restaurant serving organic food (downstairs), a footwear and perfume spot (first floor) and a far-fetched apartment for rent (top floor).
All photos by Edward Kanarecki.