Rubens, Diamonds, Fashion! Antwerp, that little city in the North of Belgium, has a lot going for it. Today, we leave the paintings and the fancy rocks to the side, and focus on the third standout quality its known for: The art of fashion!
A lot of Antwerp’s reputation as a fashion mega city hails from the famous Antwerp Six, a group of six designers that all met during their studies at the famous Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Among them are some famous names. Dries van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dirk Van Saene, Ann Demeulemeester, Walter Van Beirendonck and Marina Yee turned the fashion world around with their avant-garde approach to making clothes, and their influence is still seen everywhere in the city. Include another maverick with the name of Martin Margiela into the mix, and you understand why fashion fans from all over the world come here not only for the sample sales.
Showing us around today is Tiany Kiriloff, Belgian fashion super star and TV host with her own popular fashion website belmodo.tv. The lovely mother of two lives close to Antwerp, and brought a giant list of shopping destinations with her to meet us. Come along, put on your best outfit, and pack some sensible shoes as Tiany spends 12 hours with us in the inofficial Belgian capital of fashion.
10am // Yellow Submarine
Antwerp has some great hotels to offer, from high-end luxury chains in historic buildings to no-frills budget options. But instead of going down that well-travelled route, Tiany has something else in mind.
Her tip: Yellow Submarine, an amazing Bed & breakfast right in the city center. The owners earn their money with their communications agency of the same name, so their B&B (and the adjoining coffee bar) are a lovely side-project they can pour their hearts in.Yellow submarine features only three rooms in two different sizes, so book early. All rooms come equipped with rain showers, beautiful designer furniture, and lovely welcome gifts.
Yellow Submarine // Falconplein 51 // Website
Pictures: Yellow Submarine
10.30am // Barnini
“I am not a breakfast-kinda-girl”, says Tiany. So instead of patries or waffles, we are heading over to Barnini for just a coffee. Her choice: A soy latte. The cute café full of vintage décor offers a great selection of unique coffee drinks, including one with the taste of Speculoos, the spiced biscuits you find all over Belgium and the Netherlands. If, unlike Tiany, you crave some food to get the day going, try one of their amazing Bagels. You can find their daily specials on Barnini’s Facebook page.
Barnini // Oude Vaartsplaats 10 //Mon-Sat 8am-7pm, Sun 8am-5pm // Website
11am // Shopping around Schuttershofstraat and Graanmarkt
It’s easy to get around in Antwerp, the city is small enough to be explored by foot. If that’s not your cup of tea, rent yourself a bike at one of the many bike stations that are scattered around town. You just sign up on Velo Antwerpen and buy yourself a daily (if you’re staying longer: weekly) pass, and off you go.
No matter if you’re on foot or two wheels, Tiany is heading to the shopping paradise around Schuttershofstraat next, so that’s where you’re going, too. Antwerp is a shopping Mecca. Even though the city is fairly small, you will find a selection of fashion and design brands here that rivals major European cities. Blame it on the vivid fashion scene, but your credit card can easily go into overdrive within just a short hours. But even if you’re low on cash, a little window shopping never hurts. And you might as well get some inspiration now, maybe it helps you on your hunt for a coveted vintage item later in the day. But for now, let’s focus on the shiny world of brands, expensive names and couture and let’s hear Tiany’s advice.
First of, we visit Coccodrillo shoes. This is dangerous territory even for somebody who’s used to be around pretty things like Ms. Kiriloff. ‘I could spend hours here, and always walk out with more than I had planned for’, she says. No wonder, the store is stocked with all the latest and greatest shoes from Miu Miu to Nicholas Kirkwood, and one of the few shops that sells the shoes from the Ferragamo’s Creation line, a collection of limited, numbered pieces from the Italian brand’s historic archives. These sparkly, Wizard of Oz-red high heels on Tiany’s feet? That’s where they’re from.
If you’re a guy who doesn’t happen to be into ladies’ pumps, no fear. Coccodrillo has a store dedicated to manly feet three meters away, just across the street. If you’re in there, look out for the creations of the up-and-coming brand WeberHodelFeder, they are amazing!
Coccodrillo // Schuttershofstraat 9 A-B // Mon-Sat 10am-6pm //Website
The Antwerp Six, that famous group of designers that met at the Royal Academy Of Fine Arts and went on to become one of the most influential forces in the industry, is still alive and well in the city. Case in point, The Ballroom. Walter van Beirendonck’s store and showroom is showcasing Antwerp fashion at its best, with the designer himself or one of his colleagues often present.
On our visit, Dirk Van Saene showed Tiany around and let us have a close look on all the beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces designed by him, van Beirendonck, Frieda Degeyter and Sophie d’Hoore. The beautiful space is hidden on the first floor of the building, but once you climb up the stairs, you’ll feel welcome and at home. The current showroom is only temporary, though. Within 2013, the designer will move his shop up the street, right upstairs from Coccodrillo.
The Ballroom // Komedieplaats 17, Entrance Ketelstraat, 1st floor // Wed-Sat 11am-6pm // Website
A quick question can tell you in an instant if you are talking to a regular person, or a fashion maniac. Do you remember the flower arrangements at Raf Simmons’ last show for Jil Sander in Milan? And all the beautiful blossoms at his first Dior show? If you have any clue what we’re talking about, you’re in for a treat. And even if you think we completely lost track of showing you around in Antwerp, stay with us. Because what’s next is beautiful.
Tiany favorite flower happens to be the wonderful Baltimore. That little shop of wonders is crammed with roses, trees and thistles you have never seen before, with a heavenly smell in the air. Its owner, Mark Colle, happens to be good friends with fashion design wunderkind Raf Simmons, and thus was responsible for some of his most memorable showings. If only flowers weren’t so fragile, you’d find the most amazing souvenirs here. Because the prices are less Haute Couture, and more Ready-to-Wear. Meaning: You get a lot of bloom for your buck!
Baltimore // Augustijnenstraat 35 // Mon & Wed 2am-6.30pm, Tue & Thu-Sat 9.30am-6.30pm // Website
Verso and Wouters & Hendrix Jewlery
Before we leave the area around Graanmarkt, Tiany Kiriloff shows us two more notable spots on her Antwerp shopping list. Verso is located in an old bank, and the shop’s interior is just as breathtaking as the price tags of the high-end designer items that are sold here. The shop is definitely worth a visit, if only to gaze at the beautiful décor. Right next door, Wouters & Hendrix Jewelry sell their modern and absolutely tastefull jewelry creations and present them in ever-changing, beautiful displays. Have a peek!