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Antwerp’s Finest Houses

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At Dries Van Noten.

Entering Ann Demeulemeester‘s spacious store is like approaching the church alter. The Belgian fashion designer’s dark romance oozes from the lace vests, fragile headpieces 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, 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 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

Other than Ann Demeulemeester, there’s also Dries Van Noten and A.F. Vandevorst, who make contemporary Belgian fashion so crucial. 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 with an edge. It feels like an apartment that is currently ‘furnished’ with the designer’s mesmerising clothes and accessories from his 100th collection. Fresh bouquets of hydrangeas bring even more chic to this (literally) fashionable townhouse. What’s interesting, Dries Van Noten really is a local treasure of Antwerp. That’s evident from the moment you start observing the clients – the crowd of mature, aware-of-themselves women trying on floral dresses and passionately advising on their purchases with their patient (and equally stylish) husbands is surprising. Observing this scene is beautiful and heartwarming in its own way. Meanwhile, trying on faux-furs and preciously embellished sweaters at the menswear floor is double the pleasure…

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A.F. Vandevorst‘s store is small, but dynamic. The brand is known for off-kilter, punky attitude – better get your hands on those chunky knits and signature, pointy-toe boots. They sell out quickly. The braver once might want to indulge themselves in kinky, PVC coats and patchwork dresses coming from the brand’s latest venture into haute couture world.

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All photos from Antwerp are by Edward Kanarecki.