City Guide Antwerp

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Fashion Concentrated

Issue 03/2013

08 IL Antwerpen

Text Ilona Marx Photos Gulliver Theis Illustration Roman Klonek

Why Antwerp? What exactly does the compact little city on the Scheldt River have that predestines it as a centre of fashion? Why is there such a surprisingly high density of progressive designers, ingenious and extravagant store concepts, beautiful small boutiques and, first and foremost, the renowned fashion academy, which is regarded as one of the most important breeding grounds for talent in Europe?

If you listen to the people who live here, it soon becomes clear: the question should be reworded as: what doesn’t Antwerp have?! And the answer to that would be exorbitant rents, distraction caused by excessive entertainment offers, competition from more established colleagues moving in on your patch, the hectic pace of a big city, long distances or anonymity. Without all of these negative factors, according to those who have set up camp here in Antwerp, the city, in the shadow of the Cathedral of Our Lady, is a wonderful place to earn one’s crust.
The focal point of the local fashion scene is, and remains, the ‘Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten’, which is celebrating its impressive 350-year anniversary this year, along with its fashion department, which can already look back on 50 years. Half a century during which the famous university, renowned for its demanding courses, not only yielded the legendary Antwerp Six, but also many other talents who have contributed to putting Belgian design up there on the international stage and making it a major export hit. Martin Margiela, Stephan Schneider, Tim Van Steenbergen, Christoph Broich, Sofie D’Hoore, Bruno Pieters, Veronique Branquinho – the list of melodious-sounding names is endless.

It also says a lot that many of the former academy students have remained faithful to Antwerp to this day. And of the Antwerp Six the majority have stayed: Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene and ­Walter Van Beirendonck still have their ateliers here. And Van Beirendonck has progressed from former student to director of the fashion department, where he is actively involved in shaping the university’s fashion education. The others enrich the city with their collections and flagship stores. Avant-gardist designs also influence the streetscape: inspiration can be felt everywhere – and transfers to other disciplines. After all, the fashionistas also ensure booming business in the cool antique shops on the Kloosterstraat. They populate the cafés, restaurants and bars, which have established themselves south of the Old Town around the Museum of Fine Arts.
Still going through a phase of self-discovery is the area north of the cathedral, which is currently being transformed from a no-go area into a real hotspot. Since it opened two years ago the MAS, the impressive Museum aan de Stroom, has been acting as an accelerator for development. The exhibits focus on Antwerp’s history as a harbour and trading town and the museum itself has become a new landmark in the city with its architecture reminiscent of a gigantic warehouse, its 360-degree ­panorama roof at a height of 60 metres and the ‘Dead Skull’ mosaic by Luc Tuymans on the square in front of the building.

Which brings us on nicely to the topic of art: as well as the Museum of Fine Arts, the M HKA Museum of Contemporary Art, showing works from 1970 to the present day, is a must, as well as the Photo Museum and the Fashion Museum – and for citizens of the world, a visit to the Rubens House is, of course, compulsory. But visitors will also stumble upon many an artistic gem on the banks of the Scheldt without having to pay an entrance fee: the Huis van Roosmalen for example, which was designed by Bob Van Reeth, and the art deco buildings in the Berchem neighbourhood. So you see, there’s a whole lot more to discover than the modest size of Antwerp first suggests. The city is rich, and not only because of its diamonds.

We could even go so far as to compare Antwerp with a Belgian praline: the most exquisite filling condensed into the smallest of spaces. A real treat which J’N’C editor-in-chief Ilona Marx and the Hamburg-based ­photographer Gulliver Theis quickly acquired a taste for. With Mediterranean-like temperatures, their search for 20 Antwerp hotspots turned out to be an extremely enjoyable task.




Het Elfde Gebod Beer bar in the Old Town decorated with wooden saints – very quirky!

MoMu A must for all fashion addicts: the fashion museum.

Biologisch-Dynamische Bakkerij From wholegrain to wholefood to vegan. One of the best ports of call for healthy baked goods. Volkstraat 17

Just in Case Gorgeous, slightly retro-oriented collection for women. Not to be missed!

Elisa Lee Jewellery collection made from glass, silver and gold. Thanks to the modular system, every customer’s wish can be fulfilled.

Vitrin This is where the hipsters get together over an Aperol Spritz. The place to see and be seen.

Elsa Wood-panelled shoe shop stocking a high-quality, timeless range for men and women.

Jutka & Riska Well-stocked vintage shop that always keeps up with the latest trends.

Louis Home of the avant-garde: Martin Margiela, Balenciaga, A.F. Vandevorst. Lombardenvest 2

Nathalie Vleeschouwer The knitted garments of the feminine collection in particular are a real feast for the eyes.

Coccodrillo High-end shoe shop at Schuttershofstraat 9. The men’s shop is located opposite.

Het Modepaleis The hallowed halls of Dries Van Noten.

Sips Sip the best cocktails in Antwerp in a chic sixties ambience.

Josephine’s A homage to Miss Baker. Cocktail bar and restaurant.

Revista Café Huge selection of the hottest magazines. A place of inspiration. Karel Rogierstraat 47

O’Tagine From Morocco with love: delicious, filling tagines.




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